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The Consort

Penelope Cave

Summer 2014, Vol. 70

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto in D minor K466,
arranged for solo piano, flute, violin and
cello by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Edition HH, @Mozart Series, Bicester
HH327.fsp ISMN 979 0 708092 78 0
(pbk, £35.50
ISMN 979 0 708092 83 4
(playing score, pbk, £10.95)

In a review of Cipriani Potter’s solo piano arrangement of Mozart’s Concert Rondo KV386, which I wrote for this journal (The Consort vol.63, 2007), I noted that it was an interesting example of the way in which a respected musician worked on such an arrangement, some forty years after Mozart’s death in 1791. The same applies to a slightly earlier arrangement of a Mozart concerto, published by another pianist composer, but one who knew Mozart at first hand, as a pupil who lodged with Mozart for two years from 1786.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837) was to compose about fifty transcriptions of works by composers including Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, which were mostly published in London, where he produced his first three opus numbers, having spent two years there on a début tour with his father between 1790 and 1792, at Mozart’s suggestion. It seems likely that the young Hummel may have played this work when he was Mozart’s pupil, and it is widely cited that he played a Mozart concerto at the Hanover Square Rooms in 1792.

The manuscript of K466 is undated, but Mozart entered its completion date in his own catalogue as 10 February 1785. Transcriptions had an importance in the 19th century that they no longer have, but as recent scholars including Rachel Cowgill (Ashgate, 2006), Thomas Christensen (Journal of the American Musicological Society, 1999) and Wiebke Thormählen (Journal of Musicology, 2010) have shown, transcriptions should not be dismissed as inferior works. In some cases they were written by the same composer, and published before the originals. They offered an introduction to major works such as an opera, symphony or concerto, or served as a means of reliving the experience after a professional performance, It could be said that a good transcription contains the essence of a work, without the frills.

Hummel’s score may be played with or without the accompanying instruments, flute, violin and cello, but these certainly add colour that might be missed in a solo piano performance. Nevertheless, transcriptions of this work listed by IMSLP include solo versions by both Hummel and Alkan, and a number for four hands on two pianos. The number of transcriptions not only highlights its popularity, but also demonstrates the prevalence of such arrangements.

Miucci observes that between the transcription and what he calls ‘the original’, there is only one major difference to the structure of the work, a five bar cut in the first movement to avoid a repetition. Miucci gives no opinion as to whether this is an error on Hummel’s part, or whether Hummel might have been correcting what he knew, or considered, to be a mistake in Mozart’s original score.

Other differences in the two versions are mostly in response to the early 19th-century piano, with its wider compass and greater dynamic range. Whether or not one intends to play the work in this format, Hummel’s ‘expressly written’ cadenzas (in the outer movements) and ornamentation (in the Romanze) are of interest, both as examples of the work of Mozart’s pupil honouring his teacher, and in their display of an emerging romantic style of performance.

As always, Edition HH has produced a clean score on good quality paper, spiral bound to open flat, with an excellent introduction and textual notes, but despite these advantages, the piano part, although larger than the three lines above it, is uncomfortably small to read in performance (presumably one needs to buy the second version from Edition HH). The individual instrumental parts, on the other hand, are easy to read, much larger than the pianist’s score, and with intelligent page turns. As part of the research project ‘Improvisieren – Interpretieren’, the editor Miucci, an expert fortepiano player, performed this newly published edition of K466 in the Grosser Konzertsaal of the Hochschule der Künste, Bern, on 12 October 2013. I hope there will be many similar performances, but preferably in the domestic setting for which they were designed. An arrangement such as this requires neither the space nor the expense of an orchestra but, more significantly, this is a contribution to the frequently overlooked repertoire for the early 19th-century music room.

We are grateful to the editor of The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.
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