Themes from Saint-SaŽn's Opera Samson and Dalila for Piano Trio
The opera Samson & Dalila transcriped for Piano Trio? The tradition of transcription has enjoyed a long and honored history. From the very beginning publishers such as Petrucci. Attaingnant and others all offered transcriptions of large scale works in arrangement for piano or small ensembles. With the appearance the opera, the works of such pioneers as Lully were transcribed and arranged for chamber groups. By the time of Mozart it was common place. In the 19th century, virtually all of the great pianists, including such notables as Liszt, Thalberg and Alkan, made and or played transcriptions with virtuoso variations of famous arias. In fact, over half of Liszt's concert repertoire consisted of transcriptions and paraphrases of operas by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Wagner.
Ernest Alder (1853-1904) was born in the Swiss town of Herisau. He studied violin and piano locally before attending the Stuttgart and Paris Conservatories. He lived most of his life in France working as an opera conductor in Toulouse and Marseille among other cities. Additionally, he became known as one of the finest arrangers of operatic work for string quartet, piano trio and piano four hands. Such was his talent that several composers, such as Gounod and Massenet, actually encouraged or asked him to make transcriptions.
Alder made over 20 such transcriptions, mostly of French operas. In 1895, a collection of 12, entitled L'opera concertant appeared. To appreciate Alder's excellent taste and solid craftsmanship it is not necessary to know the opera, but can be listened to as pure chamber music. The work is so fine, there is no hint that it is a transcription. This is a work not only to be enjoyed at home but in the concerthall. Our soundbite presents about 1/4 of the work.