Siloti and Bach’s Prelude in B Minor

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Painting by Alex Katsenelson

This is a continuation of my series of articles about Alexander Siloti. (I have to warn you, this note is full of trite realizations.)

It took me a while to realize that some people are great at creating and some are terrific at editing the creations of others. Often creators are not good editors and editors are not good creators. Few are good at both. Tchaikovsky was a great creator but still needed the help of editors. He often relied on his friends to polish his wonderful masterpieces. I have mentioned that Siloti helped him with the piano parts in his piano concertos. Also, after Tchaikovsky’s death Siloti took it upon himself to “improve” Tchaikovsky’s piano concertos, making them even more Lisztonian.

We usually glorify creators, but editors are lost in the footnotes of history. However, editors may add a lot of value to original work and may even transform it. 

I have not been able to find any original music by Siloti, but he had a great talent for “editing” (transcribing) the work of others. Let’s take Bach’s Prelude in B Minor. Silotti took Bach’s Prelude in E Minor, changed the key from E to B (made it a bit darker), tweaked a few things, and created a completely new, wonderful piece of music. 

Maybe originality is overrated. 

As I listen to Bach’s original version and Siloti’s transcription I see incredible beauty in both. Here is another revelation (I warned you): As I have gotten older, I have realized that I don’t have to like one thing more than another. I may find beauty in both. As trite as it sounds, this little discovery was liberating. Listen to both pieces and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. 

Bach, Prelude in E Minor

Siloti’s Transcription of Bach, Prelude in B Minor

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