Advertising and Web Hosting on Woodwind.Org!

Klarinet Archive - Posting 000413.txt from 2002/06

From: "Michael Bryant" <>
Subj: [kl] Symphonie Concertante
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 05:52:06 -0400

With apologies for taking up rather too much space.
Here is William Drabkin's complete review of Levin's book
in the Musical Times, March 1990 (Scanned, [page numbers])

Who Wrote Mozart's Four-Wind Concertante?
by Robert Levin Pendragon Press
(Stuyvesant NY, 1988) 472,pp.; $62. ISBN 0918728 33 9

The story of Mozart's lost wind concertante has been told many times over,
but must bear repeating once more. On a visit to Paris in the spring of
1778, the 22-year-old composer met four wind virtuosi whose playing
enthralled him. (About the horn player Johann Wenzel Stich, travelling under
the pseudonym Giovanni Punto, he made the charmingly trilingual remark in a
letter to his father: 'Punto blast magnifique'.) Within a few days, he had
written for them a symphonie concertante for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and
orchestra, for performance on 12 and 19 April at the Concert Spirituel.

The composer Giuseppe Maria Cambini, who was something of a specialist at
writing symphonies concertante heard about the new work and, fearing that
his enviable reputation in the genre would be threatened by the young
Austrian genius, persuaded the director of the Concert Spirituel, Joseph
Legros, to delete the work from the programme. Mozart, though disappointed
by the turn out the events (he suspected intrigue), and having already sold
his score to Legros, was nevertheless confident that he still had the piece
in his head, and told his father that he would write it down again when he
was back home in Salzburg.

But he apparently never returned to the work, and for almost a century
nothing was heard about it. The great Mozart scholar Otto Jahn, following up
the family correspondence, concluded in the first edition of his biography
of the composer (1856) that the work was lost. Kochel, following Jahn,
assigned the work to an Anhang (appendix) of lost compositions in his
catalogue of Mozart's works (1862); thus it was originally identified as
KAhn. I 9. The second edition of Jahn's bibliography (1867) maintains the
position that it had disappeared without trace.

Then in the late 1860s a score of a Concertante with a slightly different
scoring - solo oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon - came to light; Jahn had a
copy of this made for his personal library, but died before getting a chance
to investigate its origins and contents. It was published in 1886 in a
supplementary volume of the Breitkopf & Hartel collected edition of Mozart's
works, and in 1937 it was listed in the third edition of the Kochel
catalogue, under the editorship of Alfred Einstein, as an arrange [142]-ment
of the lost symphonie concertante. Einstein believed that someone other
than Mozart had undertaken the arrangement, yet he assigned to it
confusingly - a place in the chronology as if it were actually a work of
1778. For this reason the work is often designated as K Anh. I,9/297B, i.e.
as a work contemporary with the 'Paris' Symphony, K297.

Since coming to light, the Concertante has been tossed about on the stormy
seas of Mozart scholarship, both welcomed as a genuine arrangement of the
lost symphonie concertante and condemned as an utterly spurious work. In the
last 30 years 'official' opinion has turned against it: the sixth edition of
Kochel (1964) assigns it to an appendix of doubtful works, while the new
Mozart collected edition, which published it in the first volume of 'works
of questionable authenticity' (1980), describes it as 'utterly dubious'.
Those who believe that Mozart could not have made the arrangement himself
are in various minds about how much, if any, of it is based on a work by

Robert Levin has sought to clarify the issues, to present the known
historical facts about the work once again, and to offer an objective basis
for assessing its authenticity. He has followed up a suggestion, proposed to
him informally by the flautist Samuel Baron and the musicologist Barry
Brook, that the solo parts of the Concertante are an unauthentic arrangement
of those of the lost work, around which an entirely new orchestral score has
been fashioned; i.e. that sometime after 1778 (and most likely after
Mozart's death) someone found the parts for the wind virtuosi - without the
orchestral score - and decided to construct a piece from them, at the same
time rewriting it for a different solo group.

The search for a plausible explanation that covers all the elements of the
story has led Levin to cast his net widely both as a historical musicologist
and as an analyst, to consult extensive archives and library holdings, and
to make a careful study of much of Mozart's music as well as that of his
contemporaries. In the course of his research, he has convincingly
dismantled arguments relating to the work proposed by such established
Mozart experts as Friedrich Blume, Wolfgang Plath, Marius Flothuis, Stanley
Sadie, and Martin Staehelin.

Levin has also shown how dangerous it is to allow value judgements to play a
leading role in determining authenticity (though he cannot entirely dispense
with them himself). He has gained insight into the issues concerning
authenticity from John Spitzer's doctoral thesis for Cornell
University which showed how subjective assessments are easily influenced by
knowledge (or presumed knowledge) of authorship. Not only do we tend to
reject the idea that a 'great' composer could have written a 'lesser' piece
of music, but also when we come across a work of high quality we do our best
to 'prove' (i.e. to demonstrate to our own satisfaction) that only a 'great'
composer could have written it.

Sifting through the historical evidence. and studying the music carefully,
Levin has made the following deductions:
(a) that Mozart completed the symphonie concertante but never returned to
it, either to write it down afresh (as he promised his father) or to make an
arrangement of it. It seems highly improbable that he would have gone to the
trouble to recopy the work in Salzburg, where it had little chance of being
performed, or at a later date in Vienna, by which time his style had changed
considerably. In any event, we would then have to deal with two lost Mozart
(b) that the surviving arrangement is based on a redistribution of the
material in all four solo parts. In other words, the original flute part was
not simply arranged for clarinet; nor were the original two upper parts
(flute, oboe) transcribed for those of the new combination (oboe, clarinet)
while the lower two remained the same. A careful comparison of all the parts
with those in Mozart's other concerted works reveals, among other things,
that the surviving bassoon part was written for a player of limited ability
in the high register and that the surviving horn part was written for an
expert in the high register (known in the trade as a cor alto) and thus
could not have been written for Punto, a cor basse.
(c) that the arrangement was probably made by, or on behalf of, a
clarinettist. This follows from (b): in the Concertante, the clarinet is
given the lion's share of the virtuoso passagework, and the uneven
distribution of soloistic material is uncharacteristic both of Mozart's
concertante wind writing and also of the French symphonie concertante. Since
the clarinet replaces the flute in the original scoring, it was most likely
a clarinettist who perpetrated the arrangement.
(d) that the orchestral parts were rewritten from scratch, the originals not
being available to the arranger. This accounts for the awkward form of the
piece, in particular the brevity of the second movement ritornello (just
four bars); the eight-bar vaudeville-style refrain played after the theme
and first nine variations of the finale; and above all the misshapen
opening of the soloists' exposition in the first movement, where
two solo statements of the main theme are separated by an
uncharacteristically long stretch of music. (Levin has a
plausible explanation for the last of these: that in the original work, the
soloists begin the opening ritornello before allowing the orchestra to take
over, then introduce their exposition with the same material. The process is
similar to what we find in the Piano Concerto in E flat K271, a work also
dating from the late 1770s.)
(e) that the arrangement is of French provenance and dates from around the
1820s. The French connection is established by Jahn's score which, being
made for a musicologist, would have been a faithful copy of its source. In
it the viola part is marked 'Alto', a designation that only a French or
French-trained musician would have used. The dating of the work is a more
difficult matter as the surviving manuscript offers no clues about the
origins of its source. Levin must therefore resort to a stylistic analysis,
and here things become tricky: one must disentangle Mozart's 'original'
style from two other inputs, the developments in playing technique suggested
by the solo instrumental writing (in particular the advanced nature of the
clarinet part), and the fact that the arranger attempted to recapture the
original flavour of the piece.

Levin argues, plausibly that a certain amount of time must have elapsed in
order for Mozart's style to be sufficiently understood as a musichistorical
entity so that the arranger could approach the problem as an exercise in
stylistic imitation. On the other hand, certain stylistic subtleties, which
would rule out Mozart as the outright composer are evidence that the
arranger was not always able to distinguish between 'pure Mozart' and a more
generalized idea of l8th century Classicism. The latter argument would carry
more conviction if Levin had been able to show more concrete links between
the revision and developments in symphonic and concerted style between 1780
and 1820. What, for instance, was the model for the eight-bar refrain in the
variation movement, and how widespread was its use? (I have come across only
one other example of his myself, in the variation finale of Mercadante's
Clarinet Concerto, a work believed to date from his student days in Naples,

But first we must ask: what hard evidence is there to link the [143]
Concertante with an original work by Mozart? There are no records of the
source from which Jahn's copyist prepared his score, indeed this copy does
not even indicate Mozart's supposed authorship. Perhaps Jahn's
correspondence might turn up a clue; but this is scattered far and wide, and
has not been studied systematically.

Only the music can help: and for this Levin relies essentially on earlier
studies of his, concerned with 'thematic and structural hierarchy in
Mozart's concertos. All the basic arguments supporting the 'Baron-Brook
theory', that the present work is built around an arrangement of the
original solo parts, had been marshalled in an article he wrote jointly with
Daniel Leeson for the 1976-7 Mozart-Jahrbuch. This article, which attacks
the heart of the authenticity question and provides the foundation-stone for
the present study could have usefully been reprinted as an appendix;
instead, Levin summarizes the authors' approach and findings in two pages.

The article shows that underlying the solo parts is a thematic distribution
in the concerto that is entirely consistent with Mozart's approach, and just
as manifestly at odds with that of a variety of 'control composers', among
them C.P.E. and J.C. Bach, and Joseph and Michael Haydn. But this still
shows only that Mozart might have written a set of solo parts that provide
the basis for the present ones, not that he actually did.

One way to persuade the sceptics that K Anh. I,9/297B is based on an
authentic Mozart work is to show how a carefully executed
'back-transcription', i.e. a reconstruction of a hypothetical Mozart work,
for the original soloists, sounds very plausibly like Mozart. We glimpse
this first
of all in a substantial chapter on the solo parts, in which some of the
reconstructed four-part wind textures are reminiscent of the best of
Mozart's obbligato wind writing in his symphonic and chamber music,
and in his opera scores. What is clumsy or contains part-writing errors
in the surviving Concertante turns out to be correct and elegant in Levin's
imaginative back-transcription, as the examples above (finale,
beginning of variation 9) demonstrate.

A complementary chapter, on the orchestral writing, shows us how the
reconstructed solo parts can be accommodated perfectly in a revised formal
design, one which is decidedly more Mozartian than that of the surviving
work. Having reached this stage in the investigation, it is not difficult to
imagine Levin proceeding to a complete overhaul of the piece movement by
movement,. bar by bar which everything will sound more or less like Mozart.
In fact, that is precisely what he did prior to commencing historical
detective-work: in 1983 he published an entirely new score, reconstructed
for Mozart's original instrumentation. (The music is available from the
publishers, Barenreiter on a rental basis only; a miniature score is
expected to be available soon.) But now a new problem emerges: the author is
attempting to be completely objective about a work in which he has a strong
personal - one might say spiritual interest. He is defending the
authenticity of a piece which, the sceptics will continue to argue, he has
himself written.

All that Leeson-Levin proves was that Mozart might have written such a work.
It is equally possible that an early l9th-century composer tried composing a
piece for solo wind and orchestra in a Mozartian manner, the result of which
was the present Concertante. It now seems odd that Beethoven was not
included among the 'control composers', since his early concertos are
generally reckoned to be indebted to Mozart's example; how much easier it
would be for a competent musician to follow Mozart's concerto plan
intentionally, craftiag a piece as likely to be judged a work by Mozart as
by anyone else.

This is just the line the author follows in the last chapter, which searches
for the missing links between Mozart's lost work of 1778 and Jahn's copy.
With the shrewdness and wit of a Hercule Poirot, he tracks down the arranger
to Paris, circa 1830, and describes him as 'a musician of conservative
impulses - one who so revered Mozart's music that he would as gladly
undertake a reconstruction of a work by Mozart as write something original'.
Who was this mysterious Mozartphile, Levin asks on page 364 of his study;
could it have been Alexandre-Pierre-Francois Boely, organist at
Saint-Germain 1'Auxerrois, who in his spare time made keyboard arrangements
of the wind parts of three of Beethoven's and thirteen of Mozart's solo
concertos? Unfortunately, an exhaustive search of what remains of Boely's
estate turns up no evidence linking him with the Concertante.
In the absence of concrete information, only one other line of reasoning can
help: the disparity between the Mozartian character of the themes in the
piece, on the one hand, and its poor form and clumsy part-writing, on the
other, is too great for us to believe that the same person could have both
written the themes and designed the form into which they fit. This would
explain, for example, why the arranger was fooled by the repeat of the
opening solo material, and thought that Mozart wanted both statements in the
soloists' exposition; only an imaginative musician would
have recognized the applicability of the first movement of K271 to the
problem. Had the movement been written from scratch in the l9th century, its
form would have been more conventional, but at the same time would have
avoided the clumsiness of the surviving version.
Similarly the task of creating good textures among the solo parts was made
more difficult by the additional job of rearranging them for a new ensemble;
had they been composed at the same time as the rest of the concerto, we
could expect the part-writing to be less faulty, albeit more routine. In
short, the work that survives is the outcome of an exceedingly difficult
exercise, attempted by someone too poorly equipped to make a good job of it.

This is the strongest point in Levin's favour, though oddly it is
understressed here. Despite the inconclusiveness of his study however he has
taught us an enormous amount about Mozartian form and texture; his book is a
valuable compendium of information - analytical and music-historical - which
is focused upon a quite specific question but has applications for a wide
range of pieces with far less problematical pedigrees. If he has failed to
answer the question posed on the title-page, he has nevertheless given us
much to think about. And that is reason enough for us to welcome the
publication of his work.

One would have hoped that the publishers liked it so well, and made a more
professional job of it.

The appearance of music examples is scruffy. Some have been set specifically
for this book, in a typeface which is much too large in relation to the page
size. Some are reprinted from Eulenburg miniature scores, others from the
new collected edition; still others are reproduced as hand-written examples.
Often, three or four different notational styles and sizes are found on as
many consecutive pages.

The index has been produced mechanically and without much thought for the
user. A large proportion of the entries have so many undifferentiated
page-number references attached to them as to be virtually unserviceable.
Most of these references are duplicated under other headings.
The English translations of every item of text in a foreign language from
single words to extracts from letters and scholarly papers - have been
placed in a 30-page appendix. It would have been more sensible to have words
and short phrases (e.g. Anhang - appendix) translated once in the text, to
put lengthy passages into parallel columns, and to leave other items (names
of libraries and archives, titles of books and articles) untranslated.
Considerable duplication has resulted from the same arguments being applied
to two or more aspects of a single problem. A large number of footnotes, far
more than I have encountered in comparable studies, refer the reader ahead
to later discussions of the same point, or back to earlier ones.

Finally, it seems that the author could not bear to strike out things that
did not advance his arguments. He insisted on taking us on paths that
brought him no nearer to his goal, and had to be abandoned. We must endure a
long episode about Boely, only to be told at the end that he was too good a
composer, anyway, to have been responsible for the Concertante in its
present form. Various avenues of investigation into Jahn's copy - (a)
whether it was prepared from another score or from a set of parts, (b) why
it contains so many obvious errors and inconsistencies, and (c) what is the
significance of the mysterious pencilmarks on certain pages - turn out to be
cul-de-sacs. All in all, there are good grounds for removing or reorganising
a sizeable portion of the book.

In his concluding paragraph, Levin described the search for links between
the lost symphonie concertante of 1778 and the Concertante which surfaced in
the 1860s as an 'ideal example' of a problem in music scholarship. It
requires shrewd detective work on the sources, a feature of the best of
American music scholarship. A flair for a particular composer's style is
also indispensable; the British music education system, with its emphasis on
pastiche composition, has nurtured this quality in its finest students,
ensuring that the supply of Classical symphony and concerto movements,
requiems, and chamber music with clarinet is continually replenished.
But how are we to interpret his parting shot?

'I am convinced that the ability to master the language of individual
composers will deeply affect the future course of musical scholarship.'
Are we to expect still more reconstructions of allegedly lost masterpieces?
Will scholars of the 1990s continue the trend' of musicology as antique
restoration work, cloning their developments and recapitulations onto
surviving sonata-form fragments in an effort to keep music alive? Will
posterity remember us more for the classical masterpieces we exhumed than
for our genuinely contemporary works? Have we got our priorities right?


Michael Bryant
s klarinetem pod pazi -
schova rychle klarinet pod kabat
fax +44 (0) 20 8390 3236


     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact