Horror of the week: Rachmaninov piano concerto transcribed for chorus

Horror of the week: Rachmaninov piano concerto transcribed for chorus


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2020

Parental advisory.

No wonder Rach looked so glum.


  • I can hear that in a 1940s movie where he’s leaving her, and she’s running after the bus trying to have him for one more moment but she can’ keep up and he’s gone.

  • Nijinsky says:

    If he ever had shown any tendency to stay away from or not navigate some demontia with those that like to show of what would be nice to find on one’s own without the excursion to avoid it, he might have had a different outlook on his face.

    Sorry, but after having been flashed by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and then find the reincarnation of Rachmaninoff doing porno by the name of Tim Skyler, I kind of won’t listen to whatever that’s supposed to approximate, if you don’t mind.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    God, it IS horrible. And I say that as a big fan of HC and the Sixteen.
    To the ladies and/or gentlemen responsible for this: what is wrong with you? Did you all have a bit of magic mushroom in your Weetabix on the day?
    Some years ago, there was a recording of the “Rachmaninoff Fifth Piano Concerto” (as I recall touted on the CD cover in all caps as “RACHMANINOFF V”), a stunningly awful transcription of the 2nd Symphony for piano and orchestra. I had mercifully forgotten about it until now.
    Shaking my head. Just shaking my head. And sighing.

    • MusicBear88 says:

      I’ve worked with Harry Christophers and his taste has always been excellent. I’m even more discouraged that this is a Bob Chilcott arrangement, a composer and arranger that I’ve always respected greatly. I thought that it was likely more clickbaity exaggeration, but it’s pretty dreadful.

    • Alexander says:

      magic weeds are an option for magic mushrooms . cannot say it is so awful though, all the same it is what I cannot get on ….

    • muziekklassiek! says:

      indeed Sir, it’s HORRIBLE….!

  • topo says:

    Just as horrible as cellists, clarinet players, oboe players etc. Recording schubert songs and opera arias

    • Emil says:

      I’d disagree on the Schubert songs – it is much easier to translate one melodic line to an instrument, than it is to render symphonic (or piano) texture with voices. And some arrangements are spectacular (such as the Murray Perahia playing Liszt arrangements).
      Now, for the opera arias, you have a point (not that arias for instruments are ugly, I just don’t understand what the purpose of arranging them in that way is).

  • Smiling Larry says:

    It’s still better than Wellington’s Victory.

  • CYM says:

    Mark Twain would comment : « It’s Really Better Than It Sounds »
    – Quote about Wagner…

  • Jonathan Cable says:

    I’m pretty sure that Rachmaninoff must be turning in horror in his grave. I thought I’d heard the worst of Rachmaninoff manipulations – this reminds me to never say never.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    I kind of like it, not unlike the composer’s own Vocalise, really. When I first clicked on the link I was thinking the entire concerto had the piano part re-written for chorus and that’s what we’d get – now that could be awful. But this wasn’t and is rather beautiful.

  • Dan P. says:

    “Horror?” Oh, come on. Perhaps one can explain to me why sensibilities here are being so tasered by a simple transcription of a beloved piece of music. Until recordings came about, every popular classical work was transcribed for just about every combination of instruments. Just like at, say, the Durand Catalog, which still lists these. (BTW, the Sax quartet arrangement of the Ravel S.Q. is quite effective when played well.) Everyone from Bach to Rachmaninoff made numerous transcriptions and performed them as well. And, in modern times, the Swingle Singers and the groups they inspired, have done the same thing for their kind of singing and it’s often very intriguing. Besides, who cares? And, it’s not as if the original is disappearing as a result. So, what’s the fuss? I love the snippet of this arrangement and, taken on its own, I thought it was laid out quite nicely for chorus and their singing was as good as it always is with this group.

    My other bone to pick is this tendency beginning, I guess, from the 80s in which musicians to refer to Rach and Tchaik, so as to appear hip, I guess. It’s really silly and embarrassing to read and hear – like a person wearing clothes that are much too young for one, going out to a party in them. Do readers of Russian Literature refer to Dos, Tol, or Ler? These people have names, why not respect them enough to use them instead of this teenage lingo. When kids do it, one can excuse it but adults? It’s just embarrassing.

    • Greg Bottini says:


    • christopher storey says:

      Well, I type Rach because I’m lazy ! And I think this is a beautiful arrangement of a piece which is harmonically complex and which therefore lends itself to the SATB treatment . It also needs to be borne in mind that its principal theme started life as a piece for piano 6 ( yes 6 ) hands .

  • Brettermeier says:

    I prefer my arrangement for eight triangles.

  • KHertel says:

    Hauntingly beautiful. I think Rachmaninoff would approve.

  • Hmus says:

    Even if you hadn’t known the basic concept was sleazy, surely you knew you were in trouble the minute the instruction to ‘relax’ and ‘unwind’ appeared on the screen?

    People for whom concert music is a mere laxative might do better to leave it alone – there’s plenty of commercial product for that.