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The Consort

David J Golby

Volume 66, Summer 2010

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Grand Quintetto, after Serenade in B flat
Gran Partita K361, for oboe, violin, viola,
cello and piano, arr C F G SCHWENCKE,
Edition HH, HH 176.FSP, Bicester 2006
(pbk, piano score & parts £37)
ISMN M 708059 30 1

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing Schwencke's arrangement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto K622 for piano quintet, published by the same Edition HH / Hogwood team. The stature of Schwencke (1767-1822) as a well-respected figure in his day, a younger contemporary of Mozart and successor to C P E Bach in Hamburg, lends extra significance to his output, and is reason enough to take these arrangements seriously. Dating from around 1805, this arrangement is highly effective and far more practical and convenient to realise than the original Serenade for 13 Winds. Furthermore, the current edition is exemplary; this is therefore a publication that chamber musicians should not miss.

This is by no means the only alternative arrangement of the Serenade for smaller forces (Hogwood is very illuminating on this subject), but it is surely the most cohesive and convincing. The editor retains the unauthenticated third Trio attached to the first Minuetto, leaving it to the performers to decide whether to play it or not; there are surprisingly few other thorny issues to deliberate. The music is discussed and complemented by practical suggestions, for example the use of the 'articulated tie' to resolve the 'ties versus slurs' issue (p.vii).

The reservations which I expressed in the previous issue of The Consort regarding Schwencke's approach to the Clarinet Concerto were focussed on his bias towards the piano, assigning to it much solo and ensemble material. However, this criticism cannot be levelled at his arrangement of the Serenade. In fact, he offers ingenious solutions to the inevitable problems of textural contrast and distribution of material, faced as he is with an ensemble less than half the original size. From the opening of the Largo introduction to the first movement, the arranger devises wholly effective solutions, and successfully complements the interweaving of wind and string timbres with a variety of harmonic and textural support from the keyboard, which also offers vital thematic contributions.

The balance which Schwencke achieves between the forces, and the division of thematic responsibilities appears ideal, and fully in the spirit of Mozart's original. The famous Adagio is a case in point: while it is impossible to recreate the exquisite beauty of the original without the full range of timbres at his disposal, Schwencke allows the interplay of the solo lines to take full effect, above the subordinate but supportive repetition of the piano. The less well-known but equally wonderful slow-fast-slow Romance displays an equal concern for textural and timbral affinity with Mozart's original score. The Allegro molto is also particularly effective: its beauty lies in the simple, unfussy handling of the homophonic texture.

In a clever move, this first modern edition also suggests the alternatives of flute, clarinet or even another violin to replace the oboe, and Edition HH and Hogwood have taken the trouble to provided a free transposed part for clarinet in B flat, via a download in pdf format from the Edition HH website (a separate piano part is also available for a small extra cost). Hats off to them for that, and for an easy-to-navigate and comprehensive website in general, complete with sample pages and other valuable additional material. This edition also includes a portrait of Mozart and six facsimile prints from the Böhme edition, along with an Introduction in English, with a German translation. I give this my unreserved recommendation.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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