Variations Sérieuses

"This transcription deserves to join the company of Williams' Brahms, Bream's Schubert, and a select few other major adaptations of great music." Stephen Kenyon, Classical Guitar Magazine, November 2001. (See the full text of the review below.)

Felix Mendelssohn's Op. 54 variations are a blend of types that show the range of both Mendelssohn's skill at composition and his knowledge of history. Strict canon and fugue textures appear next to free variations and lyrical, accompanied song. And yet, the set as a whole is a coherent, progressive and unified elaboration of the theme. Although transferring this music to two guitars was difficult, the result is a beautiful piece that is mesmerizing and kaleidoscopic in performance. Written in standard notation only. Includes landscape-format score and portrait-format parts. 48 total pages. More information is here.

 


 

Variations Sérieuses, Op. 54 by Felix Mendelssohn
Transcribed by Richard Yates for guitar duo
Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc.
Review by Stephen Kenyon, Classical Guitar Magazine, November 2001

This is an exceptionally ambitious undertaking, for transcriber, publisher and any would-be performers. The piece was written for solo piano in 1841. The usual story is that it was written and titled the way it is in reaction to the increasing trend towards the use of the variation form as a vehicle for vacuous display rather than serious musical discourse. It is certainly one of Mendelssohn's major works for piano solo, and a significant, though perhaps not central work in the repertoire for the piano as a whole. Richard Yates is a highly experienced adaptor of music for other instruments, and is probably one of the few people I would readily trust with so great a task. Not owning a copy of the score or any recordings, I cannot say to what extent he has manipulated the original material, but it would be most out of character for him to do any damage to it. The basic procedure was either to give one guitar the soprano and tenor, the other the alto and bass, or to exploit the music's built-in alternation of phrases spatially. What you get with this edition is a score and parts, a dauntingly challenging technical and musical project, and access to some of the best music of its time. The parts are as well arranged as they can be, but since many stretches of the pieces are continuous from variation to variation, the only realistic solution would be for the players to memorise. Frankly, I can't see many duos except for the full-timers who normally play from memory anyway, making a sensible attempt at this: to them, and anybody interested in seeing how it is done, I recommend the edition in the strongest terms. This transcription deserves to join the company of Williams' Brahms, Bream's Schubert, and a select few other major adaptations of great music.