original piano transcription of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Church Sonata (Sonata da Chiesa) No.16 in C major KV 329
composition date: 1779
transcription date: 2009 (01 – 08 September 2009)
complete piano transcription / arrangement (single movement composition)
YouTube channel (embedded links below)
Definitely the hardest to transcribe of all the 17. Just look at the instrumentation: oboe, horns, clarinets, violins, cello, organ, bass, timpani, for a grand total of 10 staves. I mean, come on. … I mean, bring it on!
What I did (but I didn’t have much of a choice!) was to apply the fundamental technique that I could call the “solo thread” or better yet the “sound path”. When you listen to a symphonic piece, or in general a piece scored for more than one instrument, your ear always finds the “thread” of the dialogue going on. At any given time in a musical work, there is a definite “something” that stands out of the sound mass and gives an identity and a meaning to the whole. What our ears subconsciously do is tracing this “sound path” throughout the composition, thus piecing together the “thread” of discussion and painting the story-world the composer wanted to show / tell us.
The consequence is that no matter how complex the ensemble of instruments, there is always one sound path, and if there is only one sound path, it means there is ultimately a single tale-world. A single voice is always sufficient to narrate any kind of tale, just as a single instrument is sufficient to travel through any given sound path. This is how my theory goes. So just identify the sound path and include all of it in your transcription. Only if there’s enough capability left, include also something from the rest.
The first time I consciously applied this was with project tbpt2 (the Menuetto from Mozart’s Symphony 40). In fact I always apply it, but it is when facing works with a rich instrumentation like this one’s that it becomes essential, a determining factor.
Back to the Church Sonata, this one also makes us notice (duh!) that the instrumentation is not the same throughout the set. You range from the skinniest combination of two violins and two more staves for organ / bass of the first sonatas, to this fat orchestral blow-up, with many variations in between. The only constants are the instruments of the skinniest version.
Obviously the less voices a composition has, the easier it is to transcribe, unless there is only one voice and you transcribe for an instrument with more than one voice: then you have to do a mix of transcribing and composing – that’s the case with Bach’s Cello Suites. You aren’t anymore reducing N to 2 but augmenting 1 to 2.