Beethoven Interpreted by Beethoven: Clarinet Trio Op. 38, Piano Quartet Op. 16


  • Artist(s): Andrea Rucli, Eva Bindere, Nicola Bulfone, Vladimir Mendelssohn, Damiano Scarpa
  • Composer(s): Ludwig van Beethoven
  • EAN Code: 7.46160913162
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Cello, Clarinet, Piano, Viola, Violin
  • Period: Romantic
  • Publication year: 2021
SKU: C00483 Category:

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It sometimes happens with the musical repertoire as it happens – if such a comparison is allowed – with female hair. Typically, ladies with curly hair would like it straight, and viceversa. The repertoire written for other instruments than that one plays seems always more attractive than the repertoire originally written for that instrument. So the temptation of transcriptions is always at hand. Through the art of transcription, it is possible to realize more or less satisfactory versions of virtually every piece for virtually every instrument or ensemble. Still, the artistic quality of the result depends largely on the actual adaptability of the original piece, on the typical features of the instrumental media, and on the transcriber’ skill. There are transcriptions which easily compete with the original version, and sometimes possess a beauty of their own which the original did not have. There are transcriptions in which the effort is so extreme that the result is strained and unnatural. Sometimes, unconvincing results are determined by – paradoxically – an excess of respect for the original text. Transcribing is akin to translating, and the Italians say traduttore traditore, “translators are traitors”. Excessive respect for the letter (the “notes”) of the original piece may produce a “spiritually” unfaithful result, meaning that the musical value of the transcription is limited by the incompatibility between the original concept and the transcribed media. Still, there are limits to what a transcriber may change in the original without betraying it to the point of unrecognizability.
These limits, however, may easily be overcome when the transcription is authored by the composer of the original version himself. In this case – as in the case of a polyglot translating his or her own writings – the author knows what is essential to the work’s identity and what may be changed in order to achieve more satisfactory results in the transcribed version. The case is not infrequent, therefore, of pieces written in two or more versions by the composer, each possessing an inherent worth of its own.
Even in the most successful cases, however, the question arises sharply: is then timbre (i.e. the typical aural quality of a particular instrument) so expendable a component of a musical work that it can be so easily sacrificed? And, furthermore: did the composer disregard the particular idiosyncrasies and idiomatic musical gestures of an instrument when writing for it in the first place? Is the violin pizzicato fully replaceable with a flute staccato, to use a very trivial example?
This question becomes pressing when the original works seem perfectly suited for a particular instrument or ensemble, and to renounce its particular features seems akin to sacrificing a fundamental component of its beauty. Occasionally, the listener wonders whether the choice to transcribe was really due to cogent artistic inspirations, or rather to the “mere” wish to increase a work’s dissemination and the sales of its scores.
This question spontaneously surfaces in the case of Beethoven’s op. 16. The first edition of the piece, published in 1801 by Mollo in Vienna, bears an elaborate and somewhat confusing title: “GRAND QUINTETTO | pour le | Forte-Piano | avec Oboë, Clarinette, Basson et Cor | oû | Violon Alto, et Violoncelle”. Seemingly, then, the version for piano quartet was not even a transcription proper, but rather an equally viable version on a par with that for quintet. Significantly, moreover, the parts for both the winds and the strings were included with that of the piano. Still, the piece is called Quintetto, thus attributing – at least under this viewpoint – a slight primacy to the quintet version. The same applies to the reprint which followed suit, the next year, published by Simrock; here too the two versions are equally acceptable, but the title is Quintetto.
That the Quintet might be considered as “more original” (to paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm) is also suggested by the fact that the piece bears an undeniable resemblance with Mozart’s Piano Quintet. Beethoven’s work (in its version with winds) shares with Mozart’s model the same key, the same instruments of destination, and a very similar structure, which also includes elements of a common language to which the young Beethoven was still attached.
As has been pointed out, however, there are also substantial differences between the two works. These regard firstly the stages of life and career in which the two composers were at the moment of the pieces’ creation. Mozart was at the peak of his creative powers, had crafted his own particular style in its finest details, and was acclaimed for the excellency he had achieved in all musical genres. Beethoven was still in a developmental stage; most of his greatest masterpieces were still to come and he was not yet in the Gotha of Viennese music. It is surmisable, therefore, that his deliberate homage to Mozart was also a declaration of intentions, perhaps corresponding to the famous prophecy according to which he was to receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands. Both Beethoven and Mozart, moreover, were acclaimed as keyboard players; in Beethoven’s case, he was possibly more admired for his performative skills than for his compositional output. The young virtuoso’s brilliancy and desire to demonstrate his ability are abundantly displayed in the challenging piano writing of the Quintet/Quartet, having unmistakably concertante features.
The key of E-flat, which was so crucial for both Mozart and for Beethoven (from the Eroica to the Emperor Concerto) shines in both its luminous and its melancholic features; the beautiful lyricism of the singing passages, particularly in the Andante cantabile, offers to every performer the possibility of entering a dialogue of intense affectivity.
The concertante style is particularly evident in the Cadenza performed by the piano. Reportedly, at the piece’s premiere, in 1797, Beethoven amused himself by extending the Cadenza with improvised figurations. His fellow performers (among whom the celebrated oboist Ramm, who was a recognized authority in the field) were constantly ready to reassume their playing, and brought their instruments to their mouths countless times whilst Beethoven feigned a correspondingly high number of conclusions. Assuredly, the players were not flattered by the show, and manifested their disappointment in a rather evident fashion.
The enigma concerning the instrumental destination of the work, therefore, is increased rather than diminished by the correspondence with Mozart’s Piano Quintet. If Beethoven was purposefully alluding to his elder colleague’s model, including in what concerns the instrumental choices, why then did he create another version? But, on the other hand, it is equally true that the version with string trio sounds beautifully, even if it loosens the tie with Mozart’s work. And this is not perforce a minus: rather, when deprived of the excessively evident allusion to Mozart, Beethoven’s own style shines more clearly and reveals, as a promise, the results to which his own genius would bring the musical art.
Similar questions apply to the Trio op. 38, deriving from his Septet op. 20, composed slightly later than the preceding work (between 1799 and 1800). In this case, however, there is a clear chronological difference between the two versions realized by the composer, since the Trio version followed the Septet after approximately three years.
The Septet had represented a true landmark in Beethoven’s career; it had attracted the critics’ and the audience’s attention on the young composer, and would remain one of his most successful composition throughout his lifetime – to his later chagrin, since in his maturity he came to see the work’s limits and to deplore the attention it still enjoyed.
Transforming a piece for seven players into one for three implies a substantial adaptation (more substantial than that found in the passage from five to four). Many of the Septet’s parts converge in that of the piano in the Trio version, particularly as concerns what was originally assigned to the strings, whilst the Trio’s cello part incorporates the original cello part and excerpts from those of the bassoon and horn.
The Trio version was dedicated by Beethoven to his medical doctor, who was a good violin player and whose daughter was an amateur pianist. The adaptation, therefore, was evidently conceived as a homage to their musical evenings, as affirmed by the composer himself in the dedicatory letter, printed in the published version. Written in French, the letter claims that the dedicatee’s fame and the friendship between Beethoven and him should have encouraged Beethoven to dedicate a more substantial piece to him. However, Beethoven decided to create this arrangement considering the “ease of performance” and the aim of providing a satisfactory work for the “amiable circle” of the doctor’s family.
Together, these two works and their transcriptions constitute a fascinating CD programme. On the one hand, their chronological closeness affords us a view on the young Beethoven’s style and personality, at a time when his outlook on life was still optimistic and joyful, good-humoured, good-natured and ironic. On the other, they show that masterful transcriptions represent not only “another version” of an original, but rather a new perspective, a refreshing light which can illuminate their beauty in innovative ways. Furthermore, they provide us with a glimpse on the practices of chamber music playing, which used to represent a fundamental moment of sociability, artistry and mutual enjoyment.

Liner Notes © Chiara Bertoglio


Andrea Rucli: He finished his classical studies and then he devoted his self to music; he got the music diploma on 1982 at the Academy of Music “L. Cherubini” in Firenze, with full marks and laud, under the guide of Alessandro Specchi. For many years, he perfected his self with Konstantin Bogino, becoming his assistant for a long time during courses in Italy and abroad. They have formed a good pianistic duo and they recorded a compact-disc with Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances.
He won first and second prizes in many music competitions – contests of Alberga, Como, Aversa and so on -, he has been playing piano for more than twentyfive years as solist and in a lot of chamber music ensembles. He is now exploring this repertory and he collaborates with many good music players such as Patrik Gallois, Radu Chisu, Gordon Hunt, Michel Lethiec, the Artis String Quartet, the Meta 4 String Quartet, the Tartini Quartet, the Slow Wind Quintet and the Montecarlo wind Quintet and with main musicians of Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala, Solisti Veneti and London Symphony Orchestra. A friendly and artistic relationship is still going on with the famous viola player and composer Vladimir Mendelssohn. He took part in many chamber music festivals, like Kuhmo in Finland (for 16 years), Portogruaro (for eight years), Settimana Musicale at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Cantiere di Montepulciano, Osnabruek Chamber Music Festival, Sounding Jerusalem and Chamber Music Festival of St.Peterburg.
As solist, Andrea Rucli played with the Orchestra of Slavonic RadioTelevision, the Orchestra of Dubrovnik Festival, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Udine and recently with the Wiener Musik - Verein orchestra, in the Brahms hall, directed by A. Nanut, I. Drasinic, L. Shambadal, F. Mertz, W. Themel, Lorenzo Viotti and E. Rojatti.
He recorded for Italian, Finnish, Austrian and Slavonic radio and television networks – also for the main Italian network RAI - . He recorded E. Chausson’s chamber music pieces with Cameristi di Verona, the first absolute of a Daniele Zanettovich’s Quartet, Schumann’s sonatas for violin, piano and Heifetz transcriptions and violin pieces of Antonio Freschi with Lucio Degani (Dynamic and Bongiovanni). He recovered in Italy and recorded the chamber music of Ella Schultz Adaiewsky, a russian fascinating artist of the outgoing 19th and beginning 20th century. He performed in 2010 and 2013 as part of the acclaimed “Quirinale Series” at the Italian President's Palace in Roma, live broadcasted in Euro Radio.

She is a violinist, a chamber musician, and a soloist. She was born in Riga, Latvia, in a well-known family of musicians. As a young girl Eva took her first steps towards becoming a musician in Emils Darzins Special Music College and then moved forward to do her bachelor’s degree in Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music with teachers Anete Zvaigzne, Uldis Sprudzs and Andris Baumanis. It was the autumn of 1997 when she was awarded a scholarship to study with Eduard Schmieder in Dallas, USA for a year. Eva has been a member of Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, however, in 1997, when Gidon Kremer announced an audition for a new chamber orchestra, Eva auditioned and since then was the first violin of Kremerata Baltica for 15 years until 2012. She has performed with Kremerata Baltica almost everywhere in the world, many times as a soloist and as a duo partner with Gidon Kremer. The CD “After Mozart” with Eva being a soloist received a Grammy award. Eva founded a string quartet named “Euphonia” together with her colleagues from Kremerata in 2004. Eva has always had a special love for chamber music, she has had great opportunities to play together with such artists as violinists Pierre Amoyal, Renaud Capucon, Lukas Hagen, Boris Garlitsky, violists Maxim Rysanov, Veronika Hagen, cellists Yo-Yo Ma, Mario Brunello and Boris Pergamenschikov, pianists Katrine Gislinge, Leif Uve Andsnes and Alexander Melnikov. Eva is regularly playing with The Russian Virtuosi of Europe led by the professor of the Royal Academy of London – violinist Yuri Zhislin. Recently Eva has been asked to lead the orchestra for the world famous conducting course led by Maestro Paavo Jarvi in Tallinn, Estonia.

Nicola Bulfone studied clarinet at the Udine Conservatory and continued his studies at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart under Prof. Rodenhäuser. He won first prize at the International Music Competition in Stresa. He also attended Master Classes held by Leister, Pay and Garbarino. He has played in several orchestras, among which: the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra, the Teatro G. Verdi Orchestra, Trieste, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Teatro San Carlo, Naples. He has participated in various Festivals and Concert Seasons both as soloist and with several Chamber Music Ensembles. He played as soloist with the Slovac Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica del Mexico, the Udine Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orquesta do Norte (Portugal), the Orchestra Sinfonica del FVG, the Sophia Philharmonic, the Bjalistok Philharmonia, the Rijeka Chamber Orchestra, the Vogtland Philharmonie, the Krasnojarsk Orchestra, the Minsk Orchestra. He has recorded for SWF, RAI, ORF, BR, SDR. Many composers have written solo pieces for him. He has been teacher in master classes in Lucca, Tarvisio, Cividale, Chioggia, Ostrava, Riga, Apollonia, Beijing, Shenyang and Dalian. He has been a member of the jury at the “Jeunesses Musicales” Clarinet Competition in Belgrade and at the “S. Mercadante” International Clarinet Competition. He has recorded for the labels Agorà, Bongiovanni and Naxos. He was solo clarinet in the Udine Philharmonic Orchestra and in the Orchestra Sinfonica del FVG. He is professor Clarinet at the Udine Conservatoire.

Vladimir Mendelssohn, the son of a musician family in Romania, studied the viola and composition at the Music Academy in his hometown, Bucharest. He has appeared the world over, as a soloist and chamber musician, composer and arranger and is nowadays in great demand at countless international festivals in the company of the world's finest musicians. Mendelssohn's engagements have taken him to various parts of the United States, to almost every country in Europe and to Russia, Israel, Tunisia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and South America and has made numerous recordings for a variety of labels. A prolific composer, he has produced works for solo instruments, mixed choir, symphony, and chamber orchestra. His chamber works include four string quartets, Nova for clarinet, string trio, piano and percussion, and Don Aldebarran for seven stringed instruments, piano, and actor. He has also composed music for ballet, stage, and screen. A very popular teacher, Mendelssohn was Professor of chamber music at the Paris Conservatoire, The Hague, Essen and Bologna and master classes the world over.

Scarpa, Damiano (Cellist), Born in 1985 Castelfranco Veneto, Damiano graduated in cello with highest marks under the guidance of Pietro Serafin and in chamber music with Filippo Faes e Domenico Nordio at the Conservatory of the same city. He later graduated “mit Auszeichnung” at the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg with Enrico Bronzi. He studied with Meunier, Ormezowsky, Meneses, de Saram; at the Academy Walter Stauffer in Cremona with Maestro Rocco Filippini and Mario Brunello to the yearly Master Class in Castelfranco Veneto. In 2006 he won the National Competition “Società Umanitaria” in Milan, in 2007 the first prize at the sixth edition of the ” La fabbrica delle note” and the first prize at the National String Festival of Vittorio Veneto. In 2008 he won first prize at the Intenational Chamber Music Competition Award City of Padova. At the sixth edition of the International Chamber Music Competition Silvio Omizzolo in 2008 he won the prize for the best performance of the Omizzolo’s Sonata. In 2010 he won the third prize at the Enrico Mainardi Competition in Salzburg. Damiano Scarpa has performed in recitals in some of the most prestigious Italian Festivals such as the Festival internazionale di Alghero, the Chamber music Festival of the Concorso internazionale città di Brescia, Janigro cello festival, Portogruaro, Festival internazionale Dino Ciani in Cortina, Festival internazionale Valentiniano di Orvieto and many others. In 2010, at the age of twenty-five he won the position of first cello at the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg where he played until 2012.
In this same year he was offered a contract for the 2012/13 season with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra one of the most important orchestras worldwide. As principal cellist Damiano Scarpa regularly collaborates with the Hessischen Rundfunk (Frankfurt Radio Symphony), the Orchestra of the “Teatro la Fenice”, Arena di Verona, Teatro San Carlo in Naples and the Orchestra of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Damiano Scarpa was invited to be part of the jury of the IX International Cello Competition Antonio Janigro in Poreč (Croatia) in 2012. He held a professorship at the yearly Masterclasses at the Fondazione Santa Cecilia in Portogruaro and since 2015 he is Enrico Bronzi assistant professor at the Masterclasses of the International music Festival in Portogruaro (Venice) and in Neuberg (Austria). Damiano Scarpa plays a cello by Vincenzo Postiglione, built in Naples in 1905.


Ludwig van Beethoven: (b Bonn, bap. 17 Dec 1770; d Vienna, 26 March 1827). German composer. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. As personal affliction – deafness, and the inability to enter into happy personal relationships – loomed larger, he began to compose in an increasingly individual musical style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition and exploration and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music.

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