MIDI transcriptions

  Over the past few years I have been engaged sporadically in the somewhat obsessive activity of making MIDI transcriptions of various classical pieces. It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to collect a selection into one place.

MIDI transcription is a frustrating business - it takes ages to get one working properly on your own system, but when it is finally complete you have to reflect on the fact that on someone else's system it will sound totally different. It is not just a question of the instruments sounding different, but also the dynamics, the balance and even the piano pedalling.

So the result is somewhat hit-and-miss. This is why I aim to start including mp3 versions of some of these pieces.

But all that aside, this is all music which I like very much, and I hope that in these pages perhaps you might discover something interesting and unfamiliar.

Playing the mp3 rather than MIDI will allow you to hear these pieces as they were intended; if you have broadband, the mp3 files should stream without any problems. MIDI transcriptions will have this button: MIDI button sample and mp3 files will have this one: mp3 button sample

Please keep coming back, because as I complete new transcriptions, so I will add them here.

  These transcriptions cover some 500 years of music. With the later works there is no problem of interpretation, but with the early music one has to decide on an approach to take. My own view is that there is nothing more boring than those transcriptions of early music which set all the lines to the GM 'recorder' instrument (particularly as there aren't many good recorder soundfonts in existence). There are still arguments in the musical world about the value of authenticity in performance, but one thing is certain: using MIDI, authenticity is impossible! In these transcriptions my aim has been a musical performance - even if that involves adding a drumkit! Certainly not authentic, but in my view preferable to some live performances of early music I have heard.  
  Susato - allemande 8/Nachtanz   Susato - allemande 8/Nachttanz, mp3   Susato - Allemande 8/Nachtanz (Danserye). A piece from the volume of dances collected by Tielman Susato in 1551. This starts off as a very respectable and stately allemande, but as the evening warms up the participants clearly let their hair down a bit.  

  Alkan - Etude, Op. 39 no. 4. Alkan was a French composer for the piano, a contemporary of Chopin and Liszt. However, his star has never shone brightly in the musical firmament, although he is surely one of the supreme composers of piano music. Perhaps the ferocious virtuosity of some of his music is responsible for its neglect. This piece is also known as the first movement of the Symphony for Solo Piano. Alkan wrote a monumental set of 12 Studies in the minor keys, and this and the next three movements form the Symphony. Studies 8 - 10 form the monumental Concerto for Solo Piano. I am working on the rest of the Symphony, and hope to include it here before too long.   Alkan - Etude, Op. 39 no. 4, mp3   Alkan - Etude, Op. 39 no. 4  

  Engelmann - Galliard - Apuffi   Engelmann - Galliard Apuffi, mp3   Engelmann - Galliarda Apuffi. A galliard by the composer Georg Engelmann, from a collection of Pavanes and Galliards published in Leipzig in 1617. These pieces exemplify the abstract nature of renaissance music, which is perhaps why Engelmann is not at all well known. However, they are very suitable subjects for the varied instrumentation which is possible with MIDI.  

  Arcadelt - Il bianco e dolce cigno. Arcadelt lived at the beginning of the 16th century. The words of this song are those of a dying man who compares himself with a swan, and says that although the swan dies in melancholy, he finds that death is a very small burden to bear.   Arcadelt - Il bianco e dolce cigno, mp3   Arcadelt - Il bianco e dolce cigno  

  Dufay - Gloria ad Modum Tubae   Dufay - Gloria ad Modem Tubae, mp3   Dufay - Gloria ad Modum Tubae. Something of a musical curiosity from Guillaume Dufay. Two voices sing a Gloria in strict canon. Placed on either side are two trumpets who play a simple figure, first one and then the other. Halfway through the piece the brass figure changes, and the two instruments toss variants of it back and forth, getting closer and closer until at the end the two brass parts merge.  

  Farnaby - Allemande. A piece by the English composer, Giles Farnaby   Farnaby - Allemande mp3   Farnaby - Allemande  

  Grainger - Country Gardens   Grainger - Country Gardens, mp3   Grainger - Country Gardens (Handkerchief Dance). The Australian composer Percy Grainger was an avid setter of folk music. This very famous piece was little known before Grainger's setting. However, most people will be familiar with the watered-down pretty version rather than the aggressive original setting. Grainger spoke about the 'violence' in much folk music, and this arrangement exemplified that, with the pianist at a couple of points being instructed to strike the keyboard with his fist.  

  Richard Walthew - Holiday Waltzes. Walthew was an Edwardian English composer, and produced some interesting works. This is a charming set of six waltzes for piano.   Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, mp3  
Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, no. 1 No. 1 Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, no. 2 No. 2 Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, no. 3 No. 3
Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, no. 4 No. 4 Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, no. 5 No. 5 Walthew - Holiday Waltzes, no. 6 No. 6

  Walthew - Improvisation for Piano. In contrast to the previous set, this is a large-scale piece for the piano (in everything save length), with a touch of Elgarian nobilmente   Walthew - Improvisation for Piano   Walthew - Improvisation for Piano  

  Alkan - La Vision Alkan - La Vision. Alkan is known for his technically demanding, large-scale piano works, but this miniature in C major demonstrates that he had another side. This is almost minimalist music, a century early.  

  Engelman - Galliarda Liricel. Another piece from the same collection. Georg Engelman - Galliarda Liricel  

  Susato - Pas e medio Susato - Pas e medio. Another piece from the Danserye  

  Engelman - Paduana Stepan. This piece is given a more elaborate orchestration, together with some added percussion. Georg Engelman - Paduana Stepan  

  John Adson - Royal Wind Music   John Adson - Royal Wind Music, mp3   John Adson - Royal Wind Music. This has been given a rather more pompous orchestration than it probably had originally.  

  Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke. A set of six aphoristic piano pieces by this 20th century composer.  
Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, no. 1 No. 1 Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, no. 2 No. 2 Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, no. 3 No. 3
Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, no. 4 No. 4 Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, no. 5 No. 5 Schoenberg - Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, no. 6 No. 6

  Engelman - Paduana Soldat. Another one from the same collection.   Georg Engelman - Paduana Soldat, mp3   Georg Engelman - Paduana Soldat  

  Engelman - Paduana Mirar   Engelman - Paduana Mirar, mp3   Engelmann - Paduana Mirar. This one, from the collection of Paduanas and Galliardas, is a piece which definitely benefits from the instrumental variety possible with MIDI transcription. It is a very strange piece, highly chromatic, and without a varied instrumentation could sound both bewildering and academic.  

  Susato - Allemande no. 5. Another one from the Danserye. This one is notable for its very attractive folk-song-like tune.   Susato - Allemande no. 5   Susato - Allemande no. 5  

  Engelman - Paduana Zibotte   Engelman - Paduana Zibotte, mp3   Engelmann - Galliarda Zibotte. Another one from the same collection has been given a varied instrumentation to give the piece more rhythmic interest and a timbral variety which hopefully fits the figuration of the notes.  

  Engelmann - Galliarda Sylla. This transcription started out as a fairly restrained one, with two groups of (mainly) wind instruments playing the sections and their repeats. But then I'm afraid I got a bit carried away, and went overboard with the orchestration about two-thirds of the way through. The final result sounds more like a coronation anthem than a stately dance.   Engelmann - Galliarda Sylla - mp3   Engelmann - Galliarda Sylla  

  Debussy - La Cathédrale Engloutie   Debussy - La Cathédrale Engloutie   Debussy - La Cathédrale Engloutie. A tone-picture of the legendary submerged cathedral, its bells moved by the tides, and sounding in the depths. A word of warning for those listening to the MIDI version:- if you have a good soundcard it will treat a sustain the same way it occurs in real life, i.e. the note will sound with a natural decay. If your soundcard is not so good it will sound the note when it receives a sustain command, and will keep it sounding until it is told to stop. This piece uses long stretches of unrelieved sustain, so if your card is the wrong type it will sound chaotic.  

  Engelmann - Paduana Doaga. This pavane begins fairly innocuously with an anachronistic but inoffensive combination of two flutes and harpsichord, but then goes into areas where somewhat unlikely instruments form an ensemble.   Engelmann - Paduana Doaga, mp3   Engelmann - Paduana Doaga  

  Grainger - Let's Dance Gay in Green Meadow Grainger - Let's Dance Gay in Green Meadow. An arrangement for piano duet of a Faroe Island dance-folksong. Grainger points out that songs of this type often run to two hundred or more verses, and in this arrangement he tries to capture what he describes as the 'mesmeric frenzy' of the original performance. The same tune, treated in a different way, may be heard in Nielsen's 'An Imaginary Trip to the Faroe Islands'.  

  Engelmann - Paduana Basse. This curious piece has sections with different types of music, and also long stretches of slow music with little movement. For these reasons I have chosen a very varied instrumentation, although there are never more than eleven channels playing simultaneously. There are necessarily lots of instrumental patches, so it is to be hoped that your sound card won't object to them too much.   Engelmann - Paduana Basse, mp3   Engelmann - Paduana Basse  

  Engelmann - Paduana Hermoso   Engelmann - Paduana Hermoso mp3   Engelmann - Paduana Hermoso. Another rather odd piece in which individual parts span both dignified gravity and hurried scampering. The piece goes very well on brass instruments, and that is the basis of the instrumentation I have used, although I have overlaid the brass ensemble with a variety of other instruments, and have grounded it all with a drumkit.  

  Engelmann - Galliarda Prorsot. One of the weaker pieces, and so I have given it a more varied treatment, with lots of tempo changes and less conventional instrumentation. There is only an mp3 option with this piece because it incorporates an instrument not in the General Midi set.   Engelmann - Galliarda Prorsot, mp3  

  Schoenberg - Verklarte Nacht.mp3   Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), Op. 4. This is the most ambitious MIDI transcription I have done to date. The work is a post-Wagnerian piece done in its original string sextet version. During his lifetime Schoenberg was criticised for being mechanical and mathematical, but this early piece should have been enough to discredit that view utterly. A dramatic and emotional tone poem based on a poem by Richard Dehmel, it is highly chromatic, and despite its success as a piece, one can see why Schoenberg subsequently moved in the direction he did. I have had to restrict the transcription to mp3, simply because to play it with my samples necessitated a lot of adjustment to balance, and playing a MIDI version on another system would not work. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the transcription as successful as I would have liked, because I do not have samples of string harmonics, muted strings and notes at the extreme top of the range. But this proved to be less of a handicap than I had expected. The piece is scored so convincingly it virtually plays itself, and despite the flaws of MIDI, listening to the transcription is listening to music.  

  Poulenc - Promenades pour Piano A musical evocation of various modes of transport. It is a collection of 10 short pieces:- Poulenc - Promenades pour Piano, mp3  
  1. A Pied (On foot)    
  2. En Auto (By car)    
  3. A Cheval (On horseback)    
  4. En Bateau (On a boat)    
  5. En Avion (In an aeroplane)    
  6. En Autobus (On a bus)    
  7. En Voiture (In a carriage)    
  8. En Chemin de Fer (By rail)    
  9. A Bicyclette (On a bike)    
  10. En Diligence (In a stagecoach)    

  Poulenc, Banalites.mp3   Poulenc - Banalités - A set of five songs based on poems by Apollinaire. In this transcription the flute takes the part of the voice, although I hope to get a real singer one of these days.  
      1. Chanson d'Orkenise  
      2. Hôtel  
      3. Fagnes de Wallonie  
      4. Voyage à Paris  
      5. Sanglots  

  Villa-Lobos - Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5 - Aria A piece written for the unusual combination of soprano and eight cellos. It is a musical blend of Bach's style with the music of Brazil. Again, I have had to substitute the flute for the soprano part, and I hope that one day I will be able to get the real thing. Villa-Lobos - Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5  

  Poulenc, Banalites.mp3   Honegger - Six Poemes de Guillaume Apollinaire - The songs of Honegger have been somewhat overshadowed by those of Poulenc. However, Honegger has written many fine songs. Again, this transcription has a flute instead of the voice. These short settings are notable for the complexity of the piano part. An interesting discovery (for me, at least) was that number 4, Saltimbanques, uses the same poem I set in an English translation in "The Circus People".  
      1. A la "Santé"  
      2. Clotilde  
      3. Automne  
      4. Saltimbanques  
      5. L'Adieu  
      5. Les Cloches  

  Bax - Quintet for Harp and Strings. In his chamber music, Bax's musical thoughts were dense and more complex than in the larger orchestral works. This quintet spans the pastoral and the sinister, with a musical language somewhere between Vaughan Williams and early Schoenberg. When making this realisation I was frustrated by the fact that I don't have a sample of muted strings, but much to my delight I did manage to find a free sample of harp harmonics. Bax - Quintet for Harp and Strings    

  Honegger Cello Sonata   Honegger - Cello Sonata The cello tends to maintain a lyrical line throughout, while much of the piano part consists of keyboard acrobatics. A lovely work, which is full of the mature Honegger trademarks.  
      1. Allegro non troppo  
      2. Andante sostenuto  
      3. Presto  

  Alkan - Etude in B This Alkan study exploits the playing of inner parts. But, being by Alkan, it is ferociously difficult, with some very wide stretches, and it requires an absolute sureness of touch. As a MIDI piece it is also pretty difficult, and requires painstaking work to prevent it from sounding mechanical - the piece is in 9/8 time, and has an unbroken chain of quavers from beginning to end. But of course, coming from Alkan it transcends its form, with its flowing theme wandering into some pretty remote harmonic areas, and culminating in a grandiose and emotional climax. Alkan - Etude in B    

  Elgar Piano Quintet   Elgar - Piano Quintet A big work, composed in 1919. It has taken several months to produce this MIDI version. I really don't know why I went to the effort of doing this - I just send these things out into the void and get no feedback, and anyway, anybody who wants to hear this can find a real performance on YouTube. But having said that, the MIDI version does gain a clarity often lacking in performance, so someone might find it useful. Anyway, it's done, and I am happy with the result; it does sound something like a performance rather than a bad imitation of one.    
      1. Moderato - Allegro First movement, Elgar Piano Quintet  
      2. Adagio Second movement, Elgar Piano Quintet  
      3. Andante - Allegro Third movement, Elgar Piano Quintet  

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