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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000219.txt from 1998/04

From: "Alec Hill" <>
Subj: Copyright
Date: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 09:58:19 -0400

I must say that I find this discussion on copyright very interesting and
extremely relevant to my clarinet playing activities - which is more than I
can say for the Great Marching Band Debate which featured here recently!

I organize an amateur clarinet choir and also a clarinet quartet, and spend
a lot of my time making arrangements for these groups, so I need to know the
legal situation.

For the most part my arrangements/transcriptions have been of pieces which
are firmly in the public domain, e.g. Mozart : Serenade in Eb K375, various
divertimenti for wind instruments, etc. Others I am not so sure about. For
example, the three clarinet quartets (clarinet+string trio) attributed to
Mozart, arranged, from 2 violin sonatas and a piano trio, by an unknown
hand. Whatever their provenance they are very attractive pieces of music and
I have made an arrangement of the first of these for 3 clarinets in Bb and
bass clarinet.

Whilst these quartets were originally published in 1799, the only available
modern editions are both copyrighted in 1985 (both contain forewords in
which their respective editors state their beliefs that the arrangements are
(i) by Mozart himself, (ii) NOT by Mozart!) Both editions are unfortunately
not very reliable, for example in one case several notes in the clarinet
part are not transposed.

In making the arrangement I made extensive use of the original violin
sonata, K317d, which definitely is out of copyright, restoring much of
Mozart's original phrasing, dynamics and actual notes. So far we have only
played this piece in private rehearsal, and I have purchased one of the 1985
editions, so no one is out of pocket and if there is any contravention of
copyright here it is only technical. However what would be the situation if
we wished to perform it in public or if I wished to make the music generally

Exactly what was copyrighted in 1985? Obviously the layout on the page - but
I have not copied this but completely reset the music. Obviously any
editors' changes to the original, particularly in the areas of phrasing and
dynamics - just those areas where I have amended the music to conform
closer to Mozart's violin sonata. So where do I stand? Ideally I should have
based any arrangement on an earlier edition which was out of copyright, but
how could I obtain such a thing?

A similar example is the Harmonie arrangements of Mozart operas. I tread
fearfully here in view of Dan Leeson's earlier comments! My view of these is
that they are NOT Mozart but they ARE interesting and attractive pieces of
music, and I am grateful to Dan for his part in making them available.
Obviously if I went to a performance of Don Giovanni and found, when the
curtain went up, that there was only a wind octet on the stage, I might feel
somewhat aggrieved and inclined to demand my money back! So long as there is
no attempt to deceive anyone into thinking that these are original Mozart
compositions I don't see that any harm is done. As for Mozart's own
attitude, it is clear from his own use of Harmonie arrangements of other
composers' music (Martin and Paisiello) plus his own (Figaro) in the supper
sequence of Don Giovanni, that it was a practice of his period in which he

Sorry for that digression into an earlier topic, my point is that these
arrangements would adapt very well for clarinet choir. The problem is
similar to the one above - they are available in only one modern copyrighted
edition to my knowledge. This is also not very reliable, for example a
rather startling missing bar in the central Adagio section of the Magic
Flute Overture! In making a transcription of this I compared it closely with
Mozart's orchestral score (in the public domain) and made numerous
amendments as with the quartet. I phoned the London representatives of the
publishers and the person I spoke to thought there should be no copyright
problems - but was he correct? Is there any means of accessing the original

I imagine the UK copyright rules must be similar to those in the US but does
anyone know of an internet site dealing with this? How does one go about
seeking permission to make arrangements within the UK?

Alec Hill

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