artistry beyond the notes…

Behind the Scenes – 2: Ensemble DeNOTE’s Classics By Arrangement

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DeNOTE’s philosophy is one of creative engagement with eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century musical notation, taking the score as a starting-point for an exploration of the sound world of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and their contemporaries. We view scores as scripts, rather than texts: foundations for the creation of meaning in performance, rather than ‘set texts’ to be memorised, then correctly recited. The Music is not the Score. It’s more like conversation (speaking – listening – responding) in real time: the Performance of MEANING, not just the (re)reciting of a text.

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Not surprisingly, then, we often look at musical texts afresh in our performances. And that has led us quite often in the direction of late 18th/ early 19th-century arrangements of works by Mozart and Beethoven in particular. And that was the starting point for…

 

 

Classics By Arrangement – the title of Ensemble DeNOTE’s three concerts this spring/ summer at St John’s, Smith Square in London. In these concerts, we explore celebrated chamber music by Mozart and Beethoven in unfamiliar arrangements made by the composers themselves, their pupils and contemporaries. DeNOTE’s founder. John Irving introduces some of these arrangements below.

 

Following our exploration of Mozart arrangements in April, We continue our journey with two Beethoven ‘selfies’: his arrangements of the Quintet for Piano and Winds as a Piano Quartet, and the ever-popular Septet, Op.20 recast as a Trio, Op.38 for clarinet, cello and piano. Our concert is completed with a little-heard arrangement of the Horn Sonata for Basset Horn by Beethoven’s favourite clarinettist, Josef Friedlowsky (1802).

 

 

Piano Quartet in E flat, Op.16.

Beethoven’s autograph manuscript of his Quintet for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Piano, Op.16 (1796) is lost, so there is no conclusive proof that the quintet, rather than the Piano Quartet version with which we close our concert tonight was the original. Much of the evidence points to the quartet as the arrangement, however: on the title-page of the first edition (Mollo, Vienna, 1801) the work is prominently entitled Grand Quintetto, with the quartet version being signalled in smaller type towards the foot of the page; and early commentators such as Beethoven’s pupil, Ferdinand Ries indicated that the quintet came first. Closer inspection of the score tends to support this: the wonderfully ornate viola solo in the slow movement is an object lesson in embellishment, expanding melodically on the already ravishing horn solo from the quintet version; and there are several places in the outer movements at which the strings contribute light chordal support to the piano solos that are completely lacking in the quintet version. These introspective moments – the recapitulation in the first movement, for example – would have been less convincing on winds because of the diversity of their colours and attacks and it far more likely that Beethoven added extra nuances into the piano and strings arrangement. On 6 April 1797 (in the wind version), Beethoven himself improvised long cadenzas at various points in the finale, much to the consternation of the wind players who had no idea where to place their next entries!

 

Sonata for Basset Horn and Piano (arranged by Josef Friedlowsky c.1802) from the Horn Sonata, Op.17

Beethoven’s Horn Sonata (1800) was written for the natural horn in F. It was clearly tailored to showcase the talents of Giovanni Punto (Johann Wenzel Stich), with whom the composer premiered the work – written at great speed – in April 1800. As horn players know, the range of notes produced by a natural horn is not just restricted to the harmonic series, but can be extended by hand stopping, a technique that developed considerably in sophistication during the second half of the eighteenth century.

 

The version for basset horn was arranged by Joseph Friedlowsky (1777-1859), the first clarinet professor of the Vienna Conservatoire. Friedlowsky’s arrangement probably dates from not long after the first edition of Beethoven’s sonata (published by Mollo in Vienna in 1801 with a dedication to Baroness Josefine von Braun). The text of that first edition includes, in addition to the piano and horn parts, a part for cello which Beethoven had himself arranged. Friedlowsky’s arrangement for basset horn is quite closely based on the cello version.

 

The origins of the basset horn remain unclear, though they may have developed as something of an experiment by the instrument makers Anton and Michael Mayrhofer in Passau during the 1760s. Like its emergent contemporary the clarinet, it is a single-reed instrument with a relatively narrow bore and early examples were pitched in several different keys (F, G, B flat and D); generally speaking, after about 1800 the basset horn was pitched in F. The basset horn is larger and has a deeper sound (its bottom note, low F is heard at the end of the opening phrase of Beethoven’s sonata); it is either angled or curved in the middle; at the far end from the player is a box or ‘book’ (enclosing tubing bent back on itself several times and giving the necessary downwards extension to the range), and finally a metal flared bell. Its dark tones were favoured by Mozart in his Masonic music, in the Gran’ Partita, K.361, in La Clemenza di Tito, and most famously in the Requiem, K.626. Carl Stamitz, J.G.H Backofen, Franz Danzi and Felix Mendelssohn all composed for the instrument, but not, it seems, Beethoven apart from one single movement in his ballet Prometheus. Friedlowsky’s arrangement of the Horn Sonata is thus all the more welcome as an addition to the player’s repertoire.

 

 

Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op.38 (the composer’s arrangement of the Septet, Op.20)

 

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(Variation 2 from the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Trio arrangement of his Septet – from the First Edition, piano part)

Published by the Viennese firm, Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie in 1805, Beethoven’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello and PIano, Op.38 is the composer’s own arrangement of his extremely popular Septet, Op. 20, made in 1802. Presumably Beethoven made the arrangement because he feared (in an age before copyright protection) that others would reap the financial rewards of arrangements. In that sense he was astute, for the Septet went on to be one of his most-frequently arranged chamber works, with some twenty arrangements for various forces appearing within the nineteenth century alone.

 

The clarinet part holds to its original line in the Septet for much of Beethoven’s Trio (although it takes over the violin part in the opening Introduction); the cello memorably becomes a horn in the scherzo; the piano takes over much of the rest of the texture and the resulting torrent of notes, pushing the contemporary fortepiano to its limits, perhaps gives us a flavour of Beethoven’s virtuosity as a pianist. All in all, the Trio is an object lesson in the art of arrangement. The balance and interaction between the clarinet, cello and piano never fails in its inventiveness and in no sense is this ‘arrangement’ inferior to the Septet original. It is, rather, a colourful and creative reinterpretation of it, presenting the material in new textural combinations as if differently illuminated.

 

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Author: ensembledenote

Period-instrument chamber music group specialising in music from the era of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

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