Mozart / Johann Anton André, Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 317d

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) / transcription by Johann Anton André (1775-1842)

Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 317d (arr. of Violin Sonata K. 378)

Johann Anton AndréAs with many musical genres of his era, Mozart made great contributions to the “classical” sonata for violin and piano with at least 32 known compositions, the very first dating from when he was around 8 years old. His father, Leopold Mozart, wrote a well-regarded treatise on violin technique and made sure that his son had mastered the violin as well as a variety of keyboard instruments. Of Mozart’s mature, celebrated sonatas there are around 16. While today we naturally tend to call them “violin sonatas”, at the time, the genre emerged from the so-called “accompanied sonatas”, that is, for keyboard (harpsichord and later piano) with accompaniment by violin. Earlier examples of the genre are just that: essentially piano sonatas where an optional violin part reinforces the melody line in the pianist’s right hand, an easy arrangement for domestic music making among amateurs. Mozart was the first great composer to elevate the violin part to the status of equal, independent partner and it is worth emphasizing that his sonatas are for violin and piano, not merely a showcase for one or the other of the instruments. Mozart composed the Violin Sonata, K. 378 in 1779 in Salzburg and it was the first to be included in a set published by Artaria in 1781.

The composer, music publisher and arranger Johann Anton André (1775-1842) has been long forgotten for his own music. He is chiefly remembered today as the first important Mozart researcher. In 1799, André purchased the bulk of Mozart’s manuscripts and papers from Mozart’s widow Constanze and thus began decades of work towards assembling a definitive catalog of Mozart’s work. During these years, André published a set of three Mozart arrangements for “clarinet quartet” (clarinet, violin, viola and cello), two of them after violin sonatas (K. 378 and 380) and the third after Mozart’s Piano Trio, K. 498. It is worth remembering that Mozart himself was immensely fond of the newly emerging clarinet and wrote the first important masterworks of the repertoire (a concerto, a trio and a quintet). André’s arrangement is a wonderful chamber music transcription of Mozart’s sonata for violin and piano transferring the bulk of the violin part to the clarinet while retaining the violin as a contrasting soloist for color, dialog and chief passages derived from the piano part. The harmonic and textural foundation originally found in Mozart’s impressive piano part shifts in André’s arrangement to the string trio where its warm timbre and blended texture works most effectively

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