The Jupiter Project

Mozart [arranged by] Hummel, Cramer, Clementi
David Owen Norris fortepiano, Katy Bircher flute, Caroline Balding violin, Andrew Skidmore cello
hyperion CDA68234

In their informative programme note, David Owen-Norris and Mark Everist make the very good point that in the early 19th century in the absence of gramophone and radio and in light of the expense and scarcity of full orchestral performances, most people would have become acquainted with the music of Mozart in chamber arrangements which they could experience much more easily or even play for themselves. We would recall the very pleasing arrangements for string quartet, flute and piano made towards the end of the 18th century by the impresario Johann Peter Salomon of Haydn’s symphonies for just such a purpose, and similar efforts were made in the early 19th century to bring Mozart’s music to a wider audience. Johann Nepomuck Hummel’s arrangements of Mozart’s overtures to Die Zauberflöte and Le nozze di Figaro are recorded in delightful performances here, but the two major works are a brilliant transcription of the C major Piano Concert no 21 by Johann Baptist Cramer and Muzio Clementi’s remarkable transcription of the “Jupiter” Symphony, no 41. Contemporaries commented on these transcriptions as if they were original chamber pieces, and such is the inventiveness of the arrangers, particularly in the two larger pieces, that we can understand this. As a student of Mozart, Clementi seems particularly at ease with his master’s music, and the arrangement of the “Jupiter” Symphony is indeed a masterpiece of its genre. There is of course a whole orchestral palette missing, but the arranger’s job is to convince you to the contrary, and Clementi makes such masterly use of his four instruments that you forget about all the missing ones. This intriguing CD, the result of a project at the University of Southampton, is valuable addition to our understanding of the propagation of music in the 19th century as well as being thoroughly engaging and entertaining in its own right.

D. James Ross

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