Summer 2008, Vol 64
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 39 in E flat major K. 543
arr. for 3 flutes by Richard Carte
ed. Christopher Hogwood
Edition HH179.FSP, Bicester, 2007 (pbk £20)
ISMN 979 0 708059 44 8
available from Schott & Co
The legendary 19th-century flautist Richard Carte (of Rudall, Rose and Carte.) is perhaps best known for his contributions to flute design and building and for his Flute Method of 1845, but here he is represented as an arranger of music for flute trio. Entitled Grand Trio for three flutes, Arranged from Mozart’s Favourite Symphony in E flat, the work dates from 1827, and was the second such symphonic trio offered by Carte: the first was an arrangement, earlier in the same year, of Beethoven’s Symphony in C, but a copy of this transcription has yet to be rediscovered. Both pieces were enthusiastically received by the flautists’ press, despite some concerns about their case and playability, particularly of the current Mozart arrangement. A reviewer in the 1827 Flutists Magazine remarked that ‘the music ascends to A [flat] in many instances, and sometimes to this height in running and quick movements ... we much doubt whether a good round score of flute players could be found to finish the task with dexterity’.
To present-day players of Boehm system flutes, the third octave A flat is hardly of difficulty, but to players of the old style 8-keyed instrument it was of a challenge. As both a flute maker and a fine player himself, Carte would have been well-attuned to the difficulties and idiosyncrasies encountered on the currently available flutes. His arrangement of Mozart’s symphony is a clear example of how new musical demands in the 19th century fuelled a succession of inventions and modifications in instrument making. Eventually, of course, this led to an entirely new design in flute building - the Boehm system, which was produced in the Rudall Carte workshops and widely, adopted by players after 1850.
For players today, the arrangement is idiomatic and satisfying to play - although, of course by no means attempting to match the colour and scope of an orchestra. Carte occasionally omits unsuitable passages, particularly in the Andante, but largely the transcription is clever, and faithful to Mozart’s original. Christopher Hogwood’s editorial articulation markings are reserved for purposes of clarification or uniformity and are clearly explained and notated, while the historical information in the Introduction makes interesting and enlightening reading. This is a useful addition to the flute trio repertory.