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Four-Hand Piano Transcription and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Musical Reception

Thomas Christensen
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Vol. 52, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 255-298
DOI: 10.2307/831999
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/831999
Page Count: 44
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Four-Hand Piano Transcription and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Musical Reception
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Abstract

Throughout the nineteenth century, massive quantities of four-hand piano transcriptions were published of virtually every musical genre. Indeed, no other medium before the advent of the radio and phonograph was arguably so important for the dissemination and iterability of concert and chamber repertories. Yet such transcriptions proved to be anything but innocent vehicles of translation. Not only did these four-hand arrangements offer simplified facsimiles of most orchestral works blanched of their instrumental timbres (a result that was often compared to the many reproductive engravings and black-and-white lithographs of artworks that were churned out by publishers at the same time); such arrangements also destabilized traditional musical divisions between symphonic and chamber genres, professional and amateur music cultures, and even repertories gendered as masculine and feminine. By bringing music intended for the public sphere of the concert hall, opera house, and salon into the domestic space of the bourgeois home parlor, the four-hand transcription profoundly altered the generic identity and consequent reception of musical works.

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