Background and Ongoing Nature of this Project
The transcriptions you will find here are the direct result of my having had the good fortune to be born into an environment that emphasized Bach in particular, and other great music. My father William H. Scheide, who died in 2014 at the age of nearly 101, was a Bach scholar who founded and ran the Bach Aria Group from 1946 to 1980. It is of course no coïncidence that I got a music degree and went on to compose, perform, teach and arrange. In that latter year of 1980 he no longer needed one of his copies of the 47-volume complete Bach works by the old Bach Gesellschaft, and gave it to me in one of the best gifts I have ever received. Ever since that time I have spent many of my pleasantest hours plundering and pillaging—i.e. making recorder transcriptions out of—those pages with abandon, though now it is IMSLP, which I heartily recommend to all, which I most consult.
In some ways, especially regarding vocal originals, this project is a function of my preference ever since youth for Bach’s unbelievably wonderful instrumental obbligatos for flute, oboe, violin, cello, etc. Thus, in my arrangements the very-difficult-to-perform vocal parts are played instrumentally (sometimes even by the recorder). That said, if a singer can sing along at the transposed pitch, that in my opinion would absolutely be a plus (and in fact has happened in my arrangement of the to-die-for aria from Cantata 97 for tenor, transposed up a fifth and sung by alto).
Since that beginning the website has expanded, as you can see, to many, many other composers, notably Scarlatti, Mahler, Satie, Schubert, a great amount of Mozart, and what we will call an unusually large amount of music by people whom time has attempted to forget, or at least marginalize, such as Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Scott Joplin, and the Chevalier de St.-Georges.
Further information which is perhaps beyond what you wanted to know: Most recorder players looking for suitable Baroque and later music for solos, duets, or solo with keyboard will inevitably come across much which among other things is boring and undemanding (except in the sense that the job of making an audience enjoy it is decidedly demanding). So much of the baroque-and-later repertoire fails to make your fingers move in fresh ways that make improvement inevitable—or even likely. And the music itself so often does not seem worth working on. For reasons such as these, I have found a splendid paradox: the harder a prospective arrangement seems (within reason, of course) and the more my technique looks like it’ll be challenged and stretched, the more I look forward to getting that arrangement up and running.
This turns one’s attitudes on their head. ’Most everybody experiences fear in a completely negative way—at least at some level—of difficult assignments, tasks, tests, etc. To turn this around and look forward zealously toward work—in this case, a demanding, étude-like piece—of greater difficulty—has been one of the most interesting rewards of the endeavors of which this website is one of the main results. I am not able to claim—as Bach’s text in Cantata 4 does, “Death you shall die”—but I do say, it is possible to put Fear on the run!
—Jay Scheide, 2004, latest revision in 2020.