bach piano transcriptions

Bach Piano Transcriptions: An Introduction

As one of the greatest composers in history, Johann Sebastian Bach has left an indelible mark on classical music. His works continue to be studied, performed, and enjoyed by music lovers around the world. One way in which his music has been kept alive is through piano transcriptions. In this article, we will explore what Bach piano transcriptions are, their history, and the most famous ones.

What are Bach Piano Transcriptions?

Bach piano transcriptions are arrangements of Bach’s music for piano. These transcriptions are created by taking the original music and translating it to the piano. This allows pianists to perform Bach’s music without the need for an orchestra or other instruments.

Piano transcriptions of Bach’s music are not new. In fact, they have been around since the 1800s. Some of the most famous composers of the time, including Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni, created transcriptions of Bach’s work. These transcriptions were often made to showcase the virtuosity of the performer and demonstrate the capabilities of the piano.

History of Bach Piano Transcriptions

The history of Bach piano transcriptions can be traced back to the early 19th century. It was during this time that Franz Liszt, one of the most famous pianists and composers of the Romantic era, created his transcription of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor.

Liszt’s transcription was a departure from the traditional way of playing Bach’s music. Rather than staying faithful to the original score, Liszt added his own flourishes and ornamentations to make the piece more technically challenging.

Following in Liszt’s footsteps, other composers began creating their own transcriptions of Bach’s music. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Ferruccio Busoni and Max Reger were the most notable composers to do so. Busoni’s transcriptions are particularly well-known for their difficulty, and they are considered to be some of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire.

Famous Bach Piano Transcriptions

  1. Busoni’s Transcriptions of Chaconne in D minor: Ferruccio Busoni’s transcription of Chaconne in D minor is considered to be one of the most famous Bach piano transcriptions. This piece is incredibly difficult and is a favorite among concert pianists.
  2. Liszt’s Transcription of Prelude and Fugue in A minor: As mentioned earlier, Franz Liszt’s transcription of Prelude and Fugue in A minor is one of the earliest Bach piano transcriptions. It is also one of the most famous, and it is still performed by pianists today.
  3. Petri’s Transcriptions of Sheep May Safely Graze: Egon Petri was a Dutch pianist who created several transcriptions of Bach’s music. His transcription of Sheep May Safely Graze is one of his most famous.
  4. Feinberg’s Transcription of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring: Feinberg’s transcription of this piece is often considered to be one of the most beautiful versions of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.


Bach piano transcriptions are an important part of the classical music canon. They allow pianists to perform Bach’s music without the need for an orchestra or other instruments. The history of Bach piano transcriptions can be traced back to the 19th century, and they continue to be popular among pianists today. If you’re interested in learning more about Bach piano transcriptions, be sure to check out some of the famous pieces mentioned in this article.

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