You are here
The reinterpretive art of transcription and arrangement is deeply embedded in organ history. The earliest published music for the instrument is full of adaptations of everything from popular dance tunes to sacred vocal pieces. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) participated actively in this tradition, writing fugues on themes by other composers and arranging instrumental concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, Benedetto Marcello, and Johann Ernest as solo organ pieces. He also constantly reworked his own music, with a particular predilection for adapting violin music for keyboard. The jubilantly athletic opening Sinfonia of the Cantata No. 29, created for the inauguration of the Leipzig town council in August, 1731, transferred the prelude of his Partita No. 3 for solo violin, composed in Cöthen in 1720, to the suitably ceremonial medium of three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings, continuo, and solo organ - about as expansive an orchestra as could be found at the time. (Bach also arranged the whole Partita for lute.)
- John Henken is Director of Publications for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.