Tracing the spread of Mozart’s symphonies via quartet and keyboard arrangements

Posted on: July 22, 2019

“It can be hard for us to imagine [that] performances of the symphonic war horses of Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart … were once rarities,” writes Zachary Woolfe in Friday’s (7/19) New York Times. “In the early 1800s … large ensembles were few and far between…. Big orchestral pieces were arranged—hundreds of them, in London alone, for an unusual quartet of piano, flute, violin and cello. These versions traveled widely…. These quartets played an important role in securing [Mozart’s] place in the canon after his death…. His final symphony took on its famous sobriquet—‘Jupiter’—because of the title given to Muzio Clementi’s 1823 quartet arrangement. That Clementi ‘Jupiter’ is included on ‘The Jupiter Project: Mozart in the 19th-Century Drawing Room,’ a recording on Hyperion that will be released on Aug. 2…. It offers an intriguing, endearing time capsule of a very different culture…. As the century went on and the piano kept gaining in popularity, arrangements for four-hand keyboard began to supplant the quartet formation, which withered by the 1850s…. With the proliferation of orchestras, the rise of radio and recordings, and the related decline of amateur music-making, the orchestral originals—and the professionals who played them—finally triumphed.”

Posted July 22, 2019