Project Background

Background 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. My father William H. Scheide 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 and teach. 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.

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, 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).

Further personal stuff which is perhaps even more 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. Growing up in United States society as a student or worker of any kind, ‘most everybody I know or have heard of has experienced 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 to 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 can’t say—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!