Bach Great Composers pay tribute to other "Greats" Piano Rachmaninoff Violin

Rachmaninoff does Bach!

Here’s another example of how interesting it is when a composer does ‘transcriptions’ of another’s work. (*for more, see the Post titled, “Great Composers pay tribute to other Greats”)

Here are 3 movements from Bach’s Partita #3 for solo violin in E major – transcribed by Rachmaninoff for piano.

First the original violin followed by piano.  (*after the music read a more in depth analysis of Rachmaninoff’s effort)

Nobuko Imai_08_Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 I. Preludio


Idil Biret_06_01_J. S. BACH Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue Prelude


Nobuko Imai_10_Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 III. Gavotte en Rondeau


Idil Biret_06_02_J. S. BACH Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue Gavotte


Nobuko Imai_13_Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 VI. Gigue


Idil Biret_06_03_J. S. BACH Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue Gigue


With a few exceptions, Rachmaninov was generally quite faithful to the source music of his transcriptions. In this Bach effort, however, he added contrapuntal parts and harmonies because the original was written for solo violin. Yet the music has a mostly Bachian flavor and some have surmised that Bach himself would have made very similar modifications had he fashioned a keyboard version. That said, there are more than a few snippets of Rachmaninov’s voice in this effort, especially in the opening prelude where there are echoes in the contrapuntal writing of some of the Etudes-Tableaux and the first movement of a work to come in 1940, the Symphonic Dances. The prelude is lively and light, busy with typical joyous Bachian contrapuntal activity. The ensuing Gavotte is even lighter and playful — gracefully dainty, actually — just the kind of music not expected for Rachmaninov to have a hand in. The closing Gigue is also light, but Rachmaninov gives it a little muscle in his bass harmonies. He also makes it quite a colorful affair, all of its nearly two minutes brimming with an infectious joy.

  • Ben Leet
    May 8, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Hi Jim, I couldn’t pass this one up — Rachmaninoff does Bach. Very nice. I’ll listen to all three. In central Moscow there is a statue of R. in a public park near the musical performance theaters. I was there. As for transcriptions, mediocre pianists like me like Wilhelm Kempff’s J.S. Bach, 10 Pieces Transcribed for Piano. Some are playable, but I never could do the Choral Prelude, Awake, The Voice is Sounding, which is a really amazing piece. There is a recording which I’ve heard. I’m glad to see the new stuff on your site. Let me recommend the Violin-Piano sonata in A by Cesar Franck. I could hum it, but Australia is far away. Everyone loves it. And since I am recommending, the last Mozart piece before he died was a clarinet concerto. I’d love to hear that again. Don’t publish my comment, it’s scattered. I don’t listen too often because me computer has a high pitch hum, and it distracts. I may upgrade computer.

  • Taneyev
    December 21, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Not only Sergei took JSB as an excuse for pianism exhibition. One little poland jew named Leopold Godowsky made several \arrangements and transcriptions\ of Bach’s solo violin and solo cello works, but he left very little of the originals. Instaed, he did extremely complicate and intricate pieces who even Master would have find too much for him. Of course, very very few pianists try those pieces, because the tremendous effort it demands.