« Midweek Madness: Perry Como and the art of laid-back singing | Main | Pianist Simone Dinnerstein to give recital at Goucher College »

February 9, 2012

The addictive attraction of the International Music Score Library Project

As some of you know well -- because I frequently go on and on about it -- I love piano transcriptions.

Over the years, I managed to find quite a few, but not nearly as many as I could uncover in a single hour plugged into the International Music Score Library Project, one of the coolest, most addictive sites I know.

It was a hunt for transcriptions that led me to IMSLP quite a while ago, but I discovered so much more there -- 159,000 scores by more than 7,000 composers.

It's a place I never tire of visiting whenever I want to put eyes on a score quickly and -- my favorite part -- print out something that I want to add to my collection. All for free, mind you.

This is a fabulous public domain space. I suppose it may be threatened, to some extent, by the recent Supreme Court decision regarding copyright protections, but I hope that IMSLP, founded six years ago this month, survives and thrives. I have been using it for a long while now and cannot imagine not being able to access it. 

Soloists and ensembles can find enough vocal and instrumental repertoire here to last a lifetime of performing -- OK, non-contemporary repertoire.

It is one of the most best examples I know of how the Web can benefit musicians.

Back to transcriptions. Just this week, on a whim, I wondered if anyone had ever done a piano arrangement of ...

Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. I was still thinking about the exquisite performance of that piece I heard performed by Jorg Widmann with Christoph Eschebach and the National Symphony recently.

The slow movement has one of Mozart's most incredibly beautiful melodies and I had this yen to play it on the piano. Well, IMSLP let me down. No transcription. Sigh. But wait. How about Mozart's Clarinet Quintet? That's got some great stuff in it, too, and might be interesting to play. And there it was. Neat.

Then, I figured, did anyone transcribe the exquisite Clarinet Quintet by Brahms? Yep, they sure did. I printed out the first movement today and hope to try it out soon.

I know some of you are thinking it makes no real sense to play pieces like this at the keyboard, but what do I care about making sense? Thanks to IMSLP, I have such goodies as the complete score to Gluck's "Iphigenie en Tauride" -- for solo piano. How sensible is that? It sure is fun, though.

I've printed out assorted lieder, symphonies and tone poems arranged for keyboard, too. "Death and Transfiguration," anyone? My articulation of the "Death" part is deadly, but I can get through the "Transfiguration" very movingly, if I do say so myself. How about Tchaikovsky's "Manfred"? Loads of fun pounding out the heavy fate theme (that really makes the cats scatter).

Anyway, my specialized interest does not begin to explain the full extent of the treasury to be savored at this site -- full orchestral scores (and individual parts), chamber works, oratorios. (I use it for plenty of music originally written for piano, too.)

If you haven't already discovered International Music Score Library Project, give it a whirl. And don't be surprised if you keep coming back for more.

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes


Totally agree: the International Music Score Library Project, and it's "sister", the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
are priceless resources. Let's hope they survive.

OMG! Tim, you have hereby created a monster!

Look at this, songs of Franz Schreker! And the songs of Hans Pfitzner, too! And look, here under Schubert is his "Lebensmut" fragmanet (originally part of Scwanengesang), and (OMG!) Schubert's Operas and SIngspiel (15 out of the 16)!

This, combined with the wonderful Recmusic page on "The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive" for the texts (and many translations) of art songs are a wonderful combination.

Woo hooo!!!

Thanks so much for this header! Yowza!

I told you it was fun. It's just Christmas 24 hours a day at that site. Glad you like it. TIM

Wonderful resource. I, too, am nuts about transcriptions. Is there any way to search for them generally, rather than by title?

I don't think that site has a search for that, but there could be something lurking that I didn't notice. It does seem feasible. TIM

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected