'Grande Sestetto Concertante (1808) After the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364,' by W.A. Mozart (Bärenreiter, full score, €13.95; set of parts, €17.95)
The only one of Mozart’s sinfonies concertantes to survive complete
Fashions change. By the time Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, K. 364, appeared in print in 1802, the form was outmoded. A popularized piano trio version was hastily published in the same year. An anonymous arrangement for string sextet (two each of violin, viola, and cello) followed in 1808, reworked in this present edition by Christopher Hogwood.
The title page from the 1808 printing in the then-new lithograph technique is rather plaintively worded: “ridotto d’una sinfonia del celebre Maestro, A.W. Mozart.” The rearrangement of initials and the complete absence of the arranger’s name would not be countenanced today, but gratitude is warranted for the preservation of this magnificent oeuvre in any shape or form.
This is the only one of Mozart’s sinfonies concertantes to survive complete—he wrote similar works for violin and piano, as well as for violin, viola, and cello, but they exist only in fragments, while the authorship of a wind concertante is still disputed.
With very few examples of string sextets around at the time, from where did the anonymous arranger obtain his inspiration? This shadow person showed ingenuity in reallocating the two violin and viola solo parts among six players, distributing many viola passages to the first cello. The first violin retains the lion’s share of its original solos. Oboe and horn orchestration is artfully concealed within the string sextet context.
Especially inventive is the allocation of the cadenza in which new lines are sympathetically divided among the six players. The second cello has the least to do, to accommodate its possible alternative role as double bass.
Hogwood has made editorial adaptations in the interest of style where necessary, but remains respectful to the original sextet arranger. Interesting chromatic inflections have been retained to preserve the period view of the transcription.
Main sources are from the National Library of the Czech Republic in Prague with all alterations noted in Hogwood’s critical commentary. The sets of parts are spaciously printed on buff paper with judicious page turns throughout. Presented in a firm folder, the accompanying score allows a clear bird’s-eye view of the proceedings.
Enterprising chamber players will welcome a masterwork in this guise with the orchestra parts cleverly embedded and well balanced, giving each the opportunity to revel in one of Mozart’s most beautiful works.