Re: toccata and Fugue in d minor

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One has to know the harp extremely well to really judge pieces for their suitability. It takes years to fully understand not only the sound of the harp and what it can do well, but to understand other instruments and what is lost in transcription. There are many pieces where the notes are physically possible, but not esthetically. In student years, it is easy to be led down a rosy path of misdirection, and it is for that reason it is most important to study thoroughly the masterpieces and standard literature that suit the harp well. If I had not had strong guidance in this, I would have terrible taste in transcriptions! Sometimes a piece may be perfectly suited to the harp, such as Chopin’s Minute Waltz, but what audience wants to hear it on the harp when they are used to fantastic pianists playing it? Plus, the piano is so much smoother. It is also far more work to play such pieces on the harp than on the piano, so we should choose wisely, as our time is more limited than we think.

There are pieces that are very instructive, to compare the transcription to the original. Compare the Salzedo transcription of the Pescetti Sonata to the original and you will be surprised. A thorough study of his transcriptions is essential to developing a wise approach to transcription.

Another example of superb work is Dewey Owens’s first edition of the Bach Chaconne.