[tbpt81] – L. Boccherini – String Quartet in C major Op 58 No 1 / G 242 – piano transcription

original piano transcription of Luigi Boccherini’s String Quartet Op 58 No 1 in C major G 242

composition date: 1799

transcription date:

  • 3rd movement: 2012 (11 – 15 April)
  • 2nd movement: 2013 (06 – 10 September)
  • 1st movement: 2013 (21 September)

complete piano transcription (piano solo arrangement) of all 3 movements:

  1. Allegro
  2. Larghetto soave assai
  3. Allegro vivo assai

Score

IMSLP.org work page (download mp3 / pdf score)

Recordings

IMSLP.org work page (download mp3 / pdf score)

YouTube channel (embedded links below)

Comment

Op.58 is Boccherini’s last full set of 6 six quartets. Now since for some reason you’re supposed to draw comparisons with Haydn every time you talk about Boccherini, I’ll get that over quickly and just say this is the catalog-wise equivalent of Haydn’s Op.76. (And BTW I have already transcribed the No.1 of Haydn’s Op.76)

The most popular quartet of Boccherini’s Op.58 is supposed to be No.5 I think, because it has a subtitle (Hornpipe). This No.1 does not, but it is a real delight nonetheless, with many unforgettable passages, harmonic gems and formal surprises. For this reason it is better  not to look at the score while listening the first time, you may lose some of the magic and spoil your own fun. Take the first movement for example. I didn’t have any score when I listened to it. As if I had wandered into a magic forest, I got lost. Where am I? Is this still the development part? Maybe it hasn’t even started yet? Wait, I heard this a minute ago, I have walked in circles? Suddenly, a burst of light. Ah, finally this is the recapitulation!… Oh, it is the kind that quickly varies, mounts… and fades?… wait, this was a feint! And then softly, very softly, on tip-toes, the theme marks it true return, and from a small opening in the bushes you are back on the main road.

Transcribing Boccherini’s string music for the piano is already difficult as it is for purely musical reasons. While listening his music I often think, besides being a master composer, Boccherini is above all a master of sound, of timbre color. The instruments he uses are the same, but his palette is so much richer in colors. If you’ll forgive the computer joke, he writes for strings in 24-bit true color, while everyone else I heard looks 8-bit in comparison. If all this weren’t enough, this time the task was even more difficult for logistic issues thrown into the mix.

The only score I could get a hold of was a “parts” score available on IMSLP. A parts score means each instrument has a separate score with only its assigned notes. You can’t see together all the voices as you can with a “full score”. A “parts” score is the score of a single player, whereas a “full” score could also work as the director’s score. So far I have always transcribed from a “full” score, but this time there was no escaping it if I wanted to transcribe this work. Oh well, it adds to the challenge, I told myself.

OK so first, you need to print out the score of all parts. It’s impossible to work comfortably with four PDF windows open and the sequencing program at the same time. And it’s impossible to constantly switch windows, you always miss the window you need and don’t get any work done.

Next, if the bars are not numbered (as in this case!!) write the numbers yourself. Yes, by hand, and for all bars: numbering only one out of 5 bars or out of 10 bars is useless. You need to match quickly the same bar across all instruments and the only way to do it is to write out the bar numbers. Write them with a blue (or red) ink pen otherwise they won’t properly stand out (unless you print in blue, in that case write with a black pen…). It is really tedious work. I did this mostly while commuting to my job. Be sure to double check every now and then, don’t wait to finish one part to find out at the end that the last bar number is wrong because you missed one earlier, or you’ll be haunted by the Rework demon. Tip: empty bars with a bold number N above them mean: silence for N bars, or “this bar counts for N”.

When actually working, more time is spent than with a full score because more input passes are needed. You start with the instrument that holds the main voice and write it out, then add from each other instrument as needed. It’s better to work by passages, not by single bars. Write out the main voice for one passage, then go back and complete with the other voices, then proceed to the next passage. There is also more rework involved since often what you just wrote from instrument A clashes with instrument B you are writing from now, and instrument B is way better, so you have to delete and rewrite what you just wrote… or a clash may occur with instrument D, so you have to review everything you took from A, B, C, and so on.

Lessons learned:

  1. transcribing from a parts score = pain in the neck
  2. full scores are the best for transcribing. Be grateful for every full score you can get, don’t take them for granted

As you can see from “transcription dates” there was a huge hiatus of almost 18 months. After completing the third movement, which was the first I tackled, I stalled for two reasons: the facade one was that I wanted to transcribe the slow movement by playing on the digital piano, not on the computer; the true one was just plain lazyness, stemming from the tedious process described before. I finally got back cracking when I told myself, dude don’t fool yourself, who are you kidding, you can’t play the Larghetto decently enough to transcribe on the piano and you know it; do it first on the computer and then quality-check at the piano. And that’s what I did.

Now that this is finally completed and under the belt, there are no more “open slots” in the first 100 catalog numbers. About time.

Trivia

This is actually the first post I wrote on the same day of the youtube release.

See also

Boccherini piano transcriptions

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