From Mahler CD linernote : gAn Interview with
You yourself transcribed gTitanh based on Bruno Walterfs 4-hand version (while you used extant scores for the former releases). How did you find Walterfs transcription and what did you focus on in developing it? - Well, that Maestro Bruno Walter was among Mahlerfs most prominent proteges is widely known. However, it is not common knowledge that Walter transcribed Mahlerfs first and second symphonies for 4-hands piano; neither the purpose of the transcriptions nor the time he took to complete them is any big mystery. Both transcriptions were published by Universal Edition, and upon examining the scores, one can easily guess that they were primarily done for the amusement of amateur pianists, probably for home concerts or party occasions, not for professional concerts; there are so many places where Walter intentionally and clearly strived simply to make it easy to play. To bring out the vivid fullness of this music at the keyboard, though, one must address many issues in the original orchestral score. Just as one example, at the beginning of the first movement, there is an ostinato of gA,h for 56 measures by strings before the theme enters with the cellos. As you know, the sound of the piano decays rapidly after you hit the note. The structure of the instrument, how it makes sound, is based on the fact that the hammer strikes a string, unlike instruments of the violin family, which can resonate with the bow stroke. So, I had to face this huge problem at the very beginning of my transcription work. Bruno Walter solved it by simply having two players hit gAh repeatedly for 56 measures so that it sustains. However, you soon discover that it is almost impossible to create this mysterious atmosphere (the important introduction to this symphony) by playing gAh repeatedly. Bruno Walter was a great conductor, he knew how to operate his army, the orchestra, to create what he wanted. His idea of Mahler in transcription is not based upon the piano instrument, though, so I needed to solve these problems by making it sounds gpianistic.h Then, the obvious question arises: what does gpianistich mean? Why does Mahler have to be pianistic? The key is not trying to keep all the notes as written in the score, but trying to re-create Mahlerfs fundamental thought and render it on the piano by solving the riddle of why these notes; what is behind them; what is the purpose of all of his notations in the score; why he had to write this piece, etc. This, of course, is exactly the same step we take when we play anything as a performer. But to transcribe a familiar masterpiece and to perform it then, can be an ultimate, radical and new kind of performance action. It is not the substitute or mediocre imitation of the original. The purpose of the transcription has to serve the same as the original, just in a different form. Being gpianistich is a way to produce the best results to serve this purpose. The only difference is the gmeans.h If the means are different, sometimes you can see things clearly through a different angle.
Artur Schnabel was clear about his dislike of
Transcription, and his distinctly gphysicalh discomfort at hearing a
work played on an instrument for which it was not originally intended. How
would you go about addressing such a basic disclaimer? Even today, there still
presides some negative opinion for the genre of transcription, almost as a
taboo. What is your response to that?
- I think this comes from the idea of transcription only as a form of imitation or the reproduction of an original. Some say there is no need of a piano version when we can hear the original. Each transcription has a different kind of purpose and difficulty. Piano transcriptions were frequently composed by virtuoso pianists during the age of Romanticism to effectively show off their skills on stage. Horowitzfs Carmen Fantasy is a good example. Liszt transcribed Beethoven symphonies and Wagner too. His aim was probably also to introduce many orchestral masterpieces to audiences in the provinces who had no chance to hear live performances by orchestra. Then, as a backlash to Romanticism, people like Schnabel, who saw performance as a faithful reproduction of the written score, were extremely against transcriptions. Right now, it looks like transcriptions are once again being recognized, despite the fact this taboo opinion still exists. There are Bruckner organ transcriptions, Chopin guitar transcriptions, etc. The important thing, as Horowitz said, is to seek the vision behind the black and white notes. It is here, I would say, where the ultimate meaning of transcription lies.
From an interview for Fanfare magazine
Your Mahler has a very elastic sense of pacing, complete with "luftpausen," such as Bruno Walter might have used. What are your influences?
- I heard many CDs by many conductors upon playing this transcription. Of course, I admire Bruno Walter, Horenstein's interpretation inspired me, too. Originally, I was going to make recording of Bruno Walter's 4 hands version as it is, and actually had a rehearsal once with my partner. During the rehearsal however, I felt unsatisfied with his 4 hands piano writing because Walter was a genius of conducting his army, orchestra, but it was obvious that his acknowledge on piano instrument was not so ample. So, I went back to Mahler's original score, marveled his genius of orchestration. I wanted to portray Mahler's essence after whose magical orchestration is removed. It contains the very provocative questions, what the orchestration is, what the "being pianistic" means, and moreover, what the relationship between music itself and its implement in a sense which makes music aural as actual sound. The original Mahler's score writing is for an archestra, not related to a piano instrument at all. If I define the meaning of "being pianistic" as "being economical on the keyboard", this transcription would not "be pianistic nor economical" at all. What I wanted to accomplish by this CD is, to prove how I can make even nonpianistic material sound pianistic by conquering its various unique technical difficulty, and how I can speak of the kernel of Mahler's music and spirit not depending on his idiom, orchestration. For example, there is one place where first violin and second violin are doing totally the opposite at the same time, crescendo and decrescendo in only one note. It is impossible to depict it as imitation by piano, however, the expression and the purpose, why Mahler had to write so, is very possible. To solve these questions is a key to play transcription.