Wolfgang Schulz

Mozart: Flute Quartets arranged by Hoffmeister

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A music enthusiast in the late eighteenth or the early nineteenth century could often rehear a favorite composition only through arrangements purchased for home music-making, and contemporary ensembles have helped listeners hear with the ears of Mozart's time by unearthing and performing some of these arrangements. The idea of arranging piano works for a flute quartet, as heard here, may seem odd, especially inasmuch as the piano was common enough as an amateur-oriented instrument. But in fact this is one of the more intriguing releases of its type. The arrangements, by Viennese composer and publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister, appeared in 1801, and their ingenuity in transferring piano textures to the new medium is a big part of their appeal. In one sense, the recording confirms the growing tendency to emphasize the links between Mozart's keyboard sonatas and other genres. Mozart had a knack for evoking orchestral textures on the keyboard in, for example, the first movement of the Piano Sonata in D major, K. 311, while the slow movements are songlike, and many of the finales evoke divertimenti or string quartets. Each of these requires a different set of decisions on the part of the arranger, and Hoffmeister is consistently and delightfully skillful. The atypical pieces on the program are the first one, a straightforward arrangement of the Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370, and the final piece on disc 1, a version of the work generally created by joining the incomplete Piano Sonata in F major, K. 533, to the Rondo for piano in F major, K. 494. The opening movement of the work is highly pianistic, joining virtuoso effects to dense counterpoint in music that feels like a dry run for the Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, "Jupiter." In transferring this, and the boldly experimental slow movement, to flute quartet, Hoffmeister creates some effects that would have sounded pretty odd to an audience in 1801, and the performances here, by a quartet of veteran Viennese players, are alert to these moments even though period instruments would have perhaps been more effective in bringing them out. The entire disc has the quality of giving back to you what you put into it, with music-making that works fine as pleasant background chamber music but also repays close attention to the workings of the arrangements. It is not known, by the way, why Hoffmeister made only five arrangements, ignoring the usual tendency of publishers to issue such works in sets of six. Booklet notes are in Japanese and English, and unlike with other Camerata releases the Japanese text appears to be a direct translation of the English (itself translated from a German original).

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