When Opera is Translated for Piano

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This edition of Reflections from the Keyboard focuses on operatic transcriptions for the piano, complete with a few rarities.

There has always been a way to get close to opera. All one has ever needed is a piano. Composers for centuries have translated arias and overtures to the keyboard. Many of these pieces are played by amateurs or in duet form, and some are fiercely difficult requiring pianism of the highest order.

Like in any translation, a well transcribed operatic piece conveys as much as of its originality in structure and form, as well as the composer's personal style.

Piano transcription of opera became extremely popular due to the growing number of pianos in homes, and the increase in interest in and the availability of opera - one of the world's great social forms. Many composers saw operatic transcriptions as a challenge to their craft, not to mention as a way to gain recognition.


Polonaise from "Eugene Onegin" Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich/Franz Liszt / Grigory Ginsburg / Philips

Six Easy Pieces from Mozart's "Die Zauberflote": No 2 / Neefe, Christian Gottlob/Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / Dimitry Rachmanov & Cullan Bryant / Naxos

Overture from the Opera "The Queen of Cyprus" / Jacques Francois Fromental Halevy/Richard Wagner / Cyprien Katsaris / Piano 21

Magic Fire Music (from: Die Walkure) / Richard Wagner/Louise Brassin / Josef Hofmann / Philips

Fantasy on the Caton's Song from the Comic Opera "Casanova" / Ludomir Rozycki/Grigory Ginsburg / Grigory Ginsburg / ARLECCHINO/ARL

Ride of the Valkyries / Richard Wagner/Ernest Hutcheson / Olga Samaroff / Opal/Pavilion Records

Tarantelle di bravura from Auber's "La Muette di Portici", S 386 / Franz Liszt/Daniel-François Auber / György Cziffra / Philips

Paraphrase on Figaro's Aria from The Barbier of Sevilla / Gioachino Rossini/Grigory Ginsburg / Grigory Ginsburg / ARLECCHINO/ARL

Variations on a theme from "Carmen" / Vladimir Horowitz/Georges Bizet / Vladimir Horowitz / RCA