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This may be a dumb question, but can pieces such as Tzigane or Cello Concerto in B. Minor, OP.104, be played on the piano?

  • This is not a dumb question, as it brings attention to the differences between notes and the character of various instruments. – Heather S. Aug 18 '18 at 21:41
  • Many composers have made arrangements of works for solo violin or cello for keyboard instruments, but I assume that isn't what your question is about. (As a famous example, the well known Bach "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" for organ is probably an arrangement by Bach of a piece for solo violin by Vivaldi - but I don't believe Vivaldi's original version of this particular piece has been discovered, though there are certainly similar pieces by Vivaldi and we know that Bach had copies of them. – user19146 Aug 19 '18 at 0:15
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You can play the notes of a piece for just about any instrument on piano. How effective it would be depends on how much the piece depends on the techniques and 'gestures' available to the original instrument.

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The notes tend to be accessible. However, the piano is a percussive instrument (though with less "off-topic content" in its attack compared to, say, the quill noise of a harpsichord) and bowed string instruments are continuous tone instruments. That means that you just can't be similarly "in-character" as, say, a bass accordion rendition of the prelude from the Bach cello suite #1 because you are lacking the necessary continuous control over the tone.

Indeed, you'll likely even run into some range problems with something like the fugues from the Bach violin solo Sonatas or the Ciaccone from the second solo Suite: that's because they are polyphonic, and while the total range of a violin is much smaller than that of a piano, the simultaneously accessible range on four strings (discounting that you'll need to arpeggiate on modern instruments) may actually be tricky to cover well with two hands when open strings enter into the equation.

There are also some nicely voiced polyphonic passages making use of polyphony distributed across strings with voices containing equal notes and/or crossing. That makes even something formally monophonic like the prelude from the violin solo partita #3 hard to render adequately on a piano.

In many cases, you'll still be able to produce the notes well enough to act as a prompter for a violin (like the piano is often employed in support of aspiring singers), but sometimes the natural magic will be gone and will require a lot of skill to artificially reinstantiate to some degree.

  • "The simultaneously accessible range on four strings … may actually be tricky to cover well with two hands …" Not compared with this "infamous" arrangement of the Bach Chaconne for solo violin! imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/03613/torat – user19146 Aug 19 '18 at 0:19
  • You might be able to get around this problem somewhat through clever use of the damper pedal. Or you could go all the way and translate it for a synthesizer array in Schism Tracker or Logic Pro. – user1258361 Aug 21 '18 at 22:22

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