David J Golby
Volume 66, Summer 2010
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Three String Quartets, anonymous
arrangements, after K378, K380 and K496
ed CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD
Edition HH, HH 188.FSP, Bicester 2009
(pbk, score & parts £39)
ISMN 979 0 708059 63 9
On first inspection, these three arrangements of works by Mozart for piano and violin appear to be something of an oddity: all anonymous, and each one taking one chamber idiom and recasting the music in another. However, there is a lot to commend the endeavour of this arranger and (presumably) his many fellow contemporary arrangers in their efforts to facilitate the performance (and of course purchase) of and close familiarity with great music in as wide a context as possible. Hogwood puts forward convincing arguments for the value of such arrangements, also suggesting that the option to drop the piano from chamber idioms involving strings offers a solution to significant issues of balance and timbre posed by the modern piano.
It is clear from Hogwood's notes, and even from a quick perusal of the score, that these arrangements constitute far more than a basic rescoring for string quartet. The arranger has taken the original material and has, generally with great skill and fluency, almost reinvented it for string quartet. The division is practically equal between all four instruments (there is much of interest for the viola and cello), and there is a fair amount of composition in evidence with respect to the adaptation of much of the original keyboard writing.
Inevitably perhaps, a great deal of the original keyboard right-hand part is transferred to the first violin, leaving the second violin to pick up much of the original solo violin part, as at the beginning of the K378 arrangement. However, the distribution of the original material is far more varied and sophisticated than this across the set as a whole (for example, the solo violin part is transferred to the cello from bar 212 in the Rondo finale of K378). The Introduction highlights some of the less successful 're-writes' (p.vi), particularly some quirky harmonic variants, while the addition of material such as the answering semiquaver figures in the second violin (K496, 1st movement, bars 6 and 10) may be a step too far for some.
There has clearly been much to consider from an editorial point of view in terms of the large number and wide variety of inconsistencies and contradictions both within and between printed sources. The level of editorial intervention and the advice given are most helpful, and mindful of the needs of the performer; in particular, they provide an essential framework for the interpretation of articulation and dynamic markings. The editor is keen to point out that the unusually prevalent nature of such details in the sources offers the modern performer extremely valuable insights into the contemporary performance of this music. This fact alone would justify the price of this edition, but we must not ignore the great value of adding such arrangements to the repertoire.
The familiar Edition HH qualities of presentation and supplementary material are all present, including Hogwood's excellent Introduction (with tantalising thoughts on who the arranger might have been) and Textual Notes, which clarify the editorial decisions made here with respect to the sources consulted (the original 1799 Viennese edition, a c1820 Parisian re-engraving, and the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe). The title-page of each of the parts makes it clear that square brackets and broken slurs have been removed, leaving the players free to consult the score for clarification as required. There are also two double-sided loose leaves included to remove the need for impractical page turns.
The work achieved here amounts to far more than commercial exploitation of someone else's music of recognised excellence. As an example of common contemporary practice, these expert and for the most part very effective arrangements offer, now as then, the means to keep this music alive in additional performance settings, especially but not exclusively among able amateurs. This edition can be warmly recommended.
We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.