After a whole day of recording my transcriptions, I discovered new ways of performing two specific variations (IX and XVII). I chose these variations in particular because they have a much more pianistic texture than the others and I was very curious to explore how far I could go with their interpretation at the piano. Additionally, and thanks to the collaboration of my colleagues, I had recordings of the three different transcriptions I had made of each of these variations. Having gone through the process of transcribing them for orchestral instruments, and then hearing and seeing these transcriptions performed during the recording process, in general I became much more attuned to the balance between layers and had a better idea of how to physically connect lines—something that is difficult to do on the piano, especially as compared to a string or wind instrument for example. The next step was to record myself playing these variations on the piano in order to see how my original conception had changed.


3.1. Variation IX



            The first transcription of this variation is for string quintet (accompaniment layer) and three woodwinds (theme layer): a distribution that offers a very clear dynamic and timbral difference between these two layers. I tried therefore to make this distinction very obvious in the piano recording of this variation. Considering that the theme layer is shared between different woodwind instruments in the orchestral version, I was also thinking about those particular timbres while I was playing it. In order to recreate a similar sound, I found that I needed to play with much more projection and with more finger legato instead of relying on the pedal. I also liked the depth of sound and resonance that the strings brought to the accompaniment, and realized that I had to cultivate a rounder sound in this material, and to be clearer when phrasing the slurs. Before explaining how the three different arrangements of this variation have changed my conception of it, I would like to explain how I approached it before this project began. Because Variation IX comes after a variation with a very mysterious character and a much drier texture as related to articulation, my idea was to play it with a lot of pedal in order to create a huge contrast. As a result however, the clarity of articulation in the accompaniment and in the main motifs of this variation can be lost when approaching it in this way.


            The second transcription of this variation is for woodwind quartet (accompaniment layer) and two stringed instruments—violin and viola (theme layer). Here too, there is a very noticeable difference between these two layers in terms of dynamic and timbre. Because of the directness of sound achieved by the woodwinds in the accompaniment layer, I decided to play this material louder. Perhaps also inspired by how the woodwinds play this material, there is a perceptible difference in how I attack the first notes of slurs here as well: I play them much more directly in this second version than in the first, whose accompaniment layer was played by strings—an instrument family with a much less direct attack where sound production is concerned. As related to the theme layer, I realized that I had to use much more finger legato in this version as well, especially in order to give the accompaniment more freedom by not using too much pedal. When playing this version I also now have in mind the main motivic conversation between the two stringed instruments from my transcription.


            The third version of this variation was transcribed for harp (accompaniment layer) and a blend of woodwinds and string instruments (theme layer). This is probably the hardest version to reproduce at the piano. The balance between both layers was quite similar in dynamic, although the accompaniment characteristics were very different from the other two. In this case, I tried to create the same sound as the harp by playing the chords inside of the slur with a pedal legato, meaning that I played shorter chords instead of leaving my arm weight on the first chord of the slur. In the thematic layer, I imagined a different instrument playing each sixteenth-note motif, and tried to recreate this feeling by modifying my dynamics, tone and touch. 

3.2. Variation XVII


            The first orchestral version of this variation is for harp (accompaniment layer) and flute and clarinet (theme layer). Before this project began, I imagined an interrelation between these layers whereby they passed phrases between one another: something I tried to show by making certain differences in balance between the two layers. Given that the solo instruments playing the theme layer in my transcription have different timbres however, I tried to recreate this at the piano. Whereas before I used to only distinguish the theme layer from the accompaniment, not only is the theme much more independent from the accompaniment now, but I can also hear many more variations of tone within the theme itself—something I accomplish by using a more direct sound and projection. As related to the accompaniment layer, the natural resonance of the harp enveloped the sound of the winds in my orchestral version: something I tried to reproduce at the piano by using more pedal.

            The second transcription of this variation is for string quartet, and I was very surprised at the result—especially as related to the accompaniment layer. At first the performers were playing its cells as independent material and it sounded very dry as a result. After I asked them to connect these cells between one another the dryness disappeared, but they still weren't able to achieve the same resonance as the harp in the first transcription of this variation. For this reason, I use less pedal in my recording of this variation at the piano. I also tried to find a better balance between the melody and accompaniment layers in this version, while using legato fingering in order to create more direction in the melody.


            The third version of this variation was transcribed for woodwind quintet and  string trio. Considering that the accompanimental motif in fifths is distributed between the English horn, bassoon and bass clarinet here, this transcription is very rhythmically intense as a result. I recreate this feeling at the piano by not using too much pedal and by paying special attention to emphasizing the motif in fifths. Otherwise, the treatment of the melody layer here is very similar to the second version in order to create a sense of direction.