Mozart’s famous Gran Partita, well known from the pivotal scene in the film Amadeus, in a wonderful arrangement for Oboe quartet and Fortepiano by a contemporary fellow musician C.F.G. Schwenke.
“It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God…”
These words, spoken by Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, fictional though they may be, are nevertheless accurate in conveying the fascination continuously inspired by the work they refer to.
Originally for 13 wind instruments…
The report, written by the critic Johann Friedrich Schink in his Literarische Fragmente:
‘Today I have heard a ‘musique’ for wind instruments, in four movements, by Herr Mozart—sumptuous and magnificent! It called for 13 instruments, viz. four horns, two oboes, two bassoons, two clarinets, two basset horns, a double bass, and at each instrument sat a master. Oh! What power! How sumptuous, noble, magnificent!’
…now for a Quintet
In order to replace the thirteen instruments of the original version, Schwencke chose to combine two new complementary media emblematic of this period of chamber music: the fortepiano and the oboe quartet. Indeed, the second half of the 18th century saw the advent of new instruments alongside the emergence of new musical genres. The fortepiano differs from its predecessor, the harpsichord, in that it uses a mechanism of hammered instead of plucked strings, resulting in a greater dynamical range. What today is called the Classical oboe has only two keys, like the Baroque oboe, but distinguishes itself from the latter through its narrower bore and smaller holes. As a result, the Classical oboe is characterized by an easier and more extended upper register and a sonority that can in turn be soft, light, clear or pungent. These expressive sound qualities, particularly adapted to the role given to the oboe in the emerging genre of the symphony, were also fully exploited in a new type of chamber music: the oboe quartet. A younger sibling to the string quartet, it combined the oboe with a string trio composed of a violin, a viola and a cello. This genre succeeded those of the sonata with basso continuo, and the trio sonata, which both fell into disuse. Almost two hundred oboe quartets were composed in Europe between 1760 and 1800. Together with the Harmoniemusik, they embody the essence of chamber music written for the oboe during that period.
Schwencke’s arrangement is a masterpiece of orchestration, a rendering of the original score that is both faithful and richly coloured. He did not merely transcribe the material from one instrument from the version for thirteen to another from the quintet. The melodic material has been ingeniously redistributed amongst the different parts, resulting in particularly varied sound combinations. While the bassoon solos inevitably occur in the cello, or in the left hand of the piano, the oboe, clarinet and basset-horn phrases are variously attributed to the oboe, violin, viola or piano, depending on the circumstances. In addition to its melodic role, the piano naturally ensures harmonic support, thereby ef ciently replacing the four horns and the double bass of the original version.
Quatuor Dialogues is Vinciane Bauduin, Ronan Kernoa, Annelies Decock & Mika Akiha