In the past, I’ve ranted against giving piano students “arrangements” of celebrated compositions like Fur Elise and Chopin’s Waltz in Eb Major. The latter appears, significantly reduced, in the Faber Adult Accelerated edition. It’s a token Classical music offering interspersed by Boogie Woogie snatches. Oh, I forgot the revised Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and a curious transposition of Mozart’s Theme and Variations Sonata, K. 331.
(The above prejudice does not circumscribe well-regarded, advanced level transcriptions by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, and others. Examples: “Liebestraume,” and “Flight of the Bumblebee,” to name a few)
In the realm of elementary and intermediate level piano studies, however, transcriptions or arrangements as found in method books, can be easily replaced with comparably leveled music in original form that has greater musical and teaching value.
Examples: Minuets by Hook, Mozart, J.S Bach, Rameau, et al.
Having said that, I’m going to depart from my well-known inflexibility and praise a collection of Saint-Saens’s Carnival of the Animals “arranged” for piano by Hans-Gunter Heumann.”
I stumbled upon this treasure trove of miniatures after my Intermediate level students had been saturated with the Rachlin ensemble’s performance of Carnival on You Tube.
A feast of wondrous tableaux, it was my student’s entree into the colorful cosmos of French composer, Camille Saint-Saens. Yet, I hadn’t known at the time that my recommended listening assignment would be followed by a hands-on journey through his music in a reduced but appealing form.
As a preliminary, here’s the roster of Rachlin’s You Tube offerings that my students sampled before their playing adventures. (Roger Moore, narrator, serves up delightful Ogden Nash verses as accompaniment)
Now here are selections from Heumann’s colorfully illustrated collection that contains 14 pieces:
Introduction and Lion
This tableau was the springboard for a teaching opportunity:
RACHLIN sample on the double bass:
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS: (WIKI)
Composer, Camille Saint-Saens (1835 to 1921)
“Le carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) is a musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The orchestral work has a duration between 22 and 30 minutes
“Le carnaval was composed in February 1886 while Saint-Saëns was vacationing in a small Austrian village. It was originally scored for a chamber group of flute/piccolo, clarinet (B flat and C), two pianos, glass harmonica, xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, but is usually performed today with a full orchestra of strings, and with a glockenspiel substituting for the rare glass harmonica. The term for this rare 11-piece musical ensemble is a “hendectet” or an “undectet.”
“Saint-Saëns, apparently concerned that the piece was too frivolous and likely to harm his reputation as a serious composer, suppressed performances of it and only allowed one movement, Le cygne, to be published in his lifetime. Only small private performances were given for close friends like Franz Liszt.
“Saint-Saëns did, however, include a provision which allowed the suite to be published after his death. It was first performed on 26 February 1922, and it has since become one of his most popular works. It is a favorite of music teachers and young children, along with Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. In fact, it is very common to see any combination of these three works together on modern CD recordings.”