The best sheet music arrangements
How do you create the best sheet music arrangements and can they ever be better than the original instrumentation? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Jascha Heifetz’s violin versions of Deep River and White Christmas and Phillip McCann’s cornet playing in Count Your Blessings and Softly Awakes My Heart are just two performers whose interpretations are so expressive that the words of original songs are superfluous.
Changing the instrumentation
Borodin’s Polovstian Dances sounds better in an orchestral version than with the original chorus, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise works beautifully on the cello and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No 8 and Britten’s Simple Symphony both sound as good in their string orchestral versions as they do in their original quartet format, and were arranged by their respective composers.
Interpretation and imagination are almost as important
However good the arrangement, it needs vibrant interpretation to realise its potential – which composers seemed to cherish in the baroque era. Here’s what Robert Donington has to say in his book A Performer’s Guide to Baroque Music: “ The baroque ideal was to depend on the individuality of the performer to fill out the implications of a sketchily notated text. Whoever took on the performance, whether he were the composer or not, took on responsibility not only for virtually the whole of the expression, but even for many of the notes.”
Most modern classical players would feel a little daunted by this, but it certainly encourages a healthy sense of imaginative freedom.