The smaller the Mozart the better

The smaller the Mozart the better


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2019

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

In an age when the majors pump out stars and brands, boutique labels are free to indulge in the cranky, the batty and the frankly off-the-wall. Which self-respecting woke person, for instance, would pay to hear Mozart’s major orchestral works shrunk to fit a Brooklyn or Lewisham bedsit? Mozart reduced to pocket-size by his principal rivals Hummel, Cramer and Clementi — do we really need that?

Actually, yes, yes, yes! …

Read on here. 

And here.



  • REGERFAN says:

    Hummel a rival to Mozart? He was Mozart’s pupil, and was 13 when Mozart died.

  • Stephen Owades says:

    Zachary Woolfe discusses this same recording in today’s New York Times. That article also includes the finale of the “Jupiter” Symphony, and it is splendid. I will order the CD posthaste.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “Mozart reduced to pocket-size by his principal rivals Hummel, Cramer and Clementi — do we really need that?”
    No. There is no longer any need for these diminuations.
    “Which self-respecting woke person, for instance, would pay to hear Mozart’s major orchestral works shrunk to fit a Brooklyn or Lewisham bedsit?”
    I certainly would not.
    With due respect to the musicians on this recording, I’ll have the full orchestrations, thank you.

  • fflambeau says:

    No disrespect to these artists, but I think Mozart knew what he was doing. His is a sparsely furnished room to begin with.

    But like Bach, any Mozart is good. He was, in my opinion, God the Father. Bach is God the Holy Ghost; Beethoven is God the Son.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Er, no. No thanks. I’ll stay with my Karl Böhm/VPO luxurious, well-cushioned Mozart.

  • Sandy says:

    If an amateur quartet (flute, violin, cello, piano) would like to play these arrangements, where might they obtain the scores?

  • Dan P. says:

    One should remember that such arrangements were commonly available during the 18 century for the very reason that most people had very few opportunities to hear an orchestra play these works. The piano sextet (Piano, SQ, and Flute) versions of Haydn’s London Symphonies are wonderful (Hogwood recorded one, the Surprise, and it’s tremendous fun). The wind octet arrangements of Mozart opera excerpts are simple but very effective. The truth is, before recordings were available, probably more people heard this music in arrangements than in the original and the people making these arrangements were very skilled.

  • George says:

    The circumstances of the 19th century drawing room we’re certainly less than ideal, and despite historical interest, I see little musical value in recreating it.

    K467 especially suffers from being deprived of its orchestral color. Perhaps no other work but Mozart makes such a functional use of timbre, transcending melodic significance in communicating the emotional contrasts within the massive harmonic structure. Even the magnificent thematic transformations are largely carried out through Orchestral color.

    In addition, the contrasts between piano and full orchestra are essential to the conception of this concerto, and it suffers greatly from the reduction. If we were living in 1820, I would keep quiet, but In today’s day in age, to wallow in such inadequacy is an unnecessary misunderstanding.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Sorry but:” Clementi’s takedown of the Jupiter Symphony is utterly essential listening, replete with hints of where Wolfgang might have gone, if he had only lasted a little longer”

    I can’t but add:

    If he didn’t end up in an asylum,

    If he didn’t have to deal with he’s-been-mentioned-too-often-already and gang, showing up sneaking in inbetween the cracks like the plague, with their ambition to be great performers, and then responding like Il Commendatore, when not pampered as such,

    If he wasn’t murdered by the Catholic Church, which now would be the big corporations,

    If he wasn’t murdered by his wife, or anyone else around him close enough (his mother in law) to think he was in cohorts with Beelzebub, or just simply untamed.

    God BLESS IT

  • Nijinsky says:

    Somehow, I think that to speak of where Mozart might have ended did he live a little longer, as introduction to this what Clementi made out of him, that’s a bit anti-thesis.

    • John Borstlap says:

      If Mozart had lived on till, say, 1815, Beethoven would have had even MORE trouble to maintain his own in that company.

  • Simon KawasKi says:

    I ironically thought the opposite, specifically with Mozart’s early string quartets. If they are played by a full-scale string orchestra, much like K. 136 is, they would be fairly adequate Italian symphonies.