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date: 26 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the critical role of keyboard transcription in the dissemination of opera through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An astounding quantity of such arrangements was published during this time throughout Europe: simplified variations and potpourris for amateur pianists to play on the harpsichord or piano-forte, prosaic piano-vocal scores of full operas, and more virtuosic paraphrases and fantasies on operatic themes for professional salon and concert artists. Although this music has often been criticized as mere commercial ephemera distorting the integrity of the original music, a more generous view is suggested in which the transcriptional economy is seen to contribute positively to the literacy and aesthetic values of amateur pianists. Through these genres of transcription, operatic music enjoyed a vibrant life outside the opera house for some two centuries—in many ways as crucial to the reception and understanding of opera as what took place on stage.

Keywords: transcription, arrangement, potpourri, variation, paraphrase, piano-forte, virtuoso, piano-vocal scores

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