Angèle Dubeau, O.C., C.Q., O.M., DFA has pursued a career as a classical musician for over 40 years and has played in as many countries, always with the same passion, zest and generosity. Beyond her [...]
They spoke about it
Mozart: Opera for Two—Late 18th-Century Transcriptions
Few composers—save, perhaps, Beethoven—enjoyed a posthumous life as fertile and as diversified as Mozart. In the decades following his death, Romanticism already began defining a generation’s quest for its identity: oppositions were set between the “naïve” and the “sentimental,” “romantic” and “romanesque,” ancient and modern. For example, his youthful death soon became a powerful metaphor for a particular mode of the “tragic,” transfigured—this is an era uninhibited in its desire to intimately link life and art—in the Requiem, seen as the expression of the foreboding of an imminent death. Die Zauberflöte also contributed to Romanticism’s self-fashioning, from the combination it offers of the fantastical, diabolical, ethical, metaphysical, and of elements taken from the Bildungsroman. The myth of the “eternal child” also played an important role: a genius becomes one who is possessed, unaware of the superior forces which express themselves through him, and which he cannot resist.
Constanze Mozart was very much involved in the development of the Mozartean mythology: because of the care with which she cultivated elements of the Mozartean lore and by the selective manner in which she chose to circulate Mozart’s works, Constanze helped in making man and work a single legend and in heightening its popularity. Editors were quick to follow. Soon after Mozart’s death were announced forthcoming complete works; also transcriptions and arrangements of Mozart’s works began proliferating. Such adaptations of a composer’s work were certainly nothing new, and opera was the genre most exploited: for example, of Mozart alone we find from Böhme (c1800) a “Dom Giovani [sic]. Grand Opera… arrangé pour le Piano-forte avec un Violon obligé…,” from Simrock (1804), a “Il Don Giovanni. Grand’opera ridotta a quartetti per flauto, violino, viola basso,” or, from Simrock again (1800), a “La Clemenza di tito. Grande [sic] Opéra… arrangée en quatuors à Deux Violons, Alto Violoncelle.” Perhaps the best example of the editors’ keen sense of marketing is the “Die Zauberflöte… arranged for Two Violins or Two Flutes… by Mr. Mozard [sic]” found on this recording: the prospective buyer does not know whether “by Mr. Mozard” refers to “Die Zauberflöte” or to “arranged.”
This is not to deny the historical importance or the artistic merit of such works. Editors, by offering this music in such a way that the amateur can now enjoy them, contribute to the spread and canonical establishment of the great works of the repertoire. This, of course, was accomplished by those—among whom assuredly more than a few composers—whose task was to simplify these complex pages without sacrificing their beauty and artistic integrity: in the transcriptions found on this recording, the tone of each aria is faithfully respected, the orchestration reduced without loss of textural richness, the typically Mozartean wit of the dialogue between voice and orchestra enhanced.
© Alex Benjamin
Note: The arrangement “for Two Violins or Two Flutes” of Die Zauberflöte was published in 1792 by B. Schott, Mainz.* Die Entführung aus dem Serail “arranged for duo with two flutes” was published in 1799 by Simrock, Bonn.* The “DUOS / for / TWO FLUTES / arranged / from the / Marriage of Figaro” was published in 1799 by Simrock, Bonn.* The first edition of the arrangement “for two flutes” of Don Giovanni was published ca1809 by Cappi, Vienna.* *(published by Universal Editions)