Rian de Waal (1958-2011) has written a book about the piano, and how the development of piano playing has been very much dependent upon musicians who were able to cross borders. In Metamorphoses, the Art of the Virtuoso Piano Transcription, De Waal takes us on a journey through the capricious history of the piano transcription, featuring composers like Liszt, Godowsky, Brahms, Busoni, among others. At first revered by musicians and audience alike (and often the sole reason for the great fame of some pianists), the piano transcription later became despised and considered unnecessary, superficial, or even heretical. The fact that the piano transcription has survived such fierce resistance has very much to do with the special qualities of the piano as a musical instrument. De Waal like no one else is able to explain these qualities, and he brings them to the fore with verve and tenderness on the six CDs accompanying this book.
Describing some remarkable moments in musical history, De Waal presents a candid overview of the historical developments surrounding the piano transcription. He explains how the genre fell from acclaim into disrepute, and lately seems to regain the rightful respect it deserves. But more than this, he provides deep-felt musical insight into what matters most: why are some piano transcriptions so good, and how do man and machine act together to make this so? The theme of the book is the piano transcription, but Metamorphoses is equally about change, possession, perception, respect, genius, transcendence, and ultimately, about human dignity.
“Rian de Waal illuminates the rather dark area of the keyboard literature known as transcriptions with penetrating gaze and insight. He shows his reader both the breadth and the depth of his subject across time, reckons surely with the dated concepts which have hindered pianists from exploring this repertoire, and argues for the purely esthetic value of the genre. This is a book of great interest for all who love the piano.” – Frank Cooper, Research Professor Emeritus of Musicology, University of Miami, USA
“This book is a long-overdue exploration of the field of Romantic piano transcriptions and paraphrases. The late Rian de Waal, a superb advocate for this repertoire, discusses the historical, aesthetic, and pianistic elements of these unique works with clarity and insight. His work should be read by all serious pianists and musical historians.” – Donald Manildi, Curator, International Piano Archives, University of Maryland, USA