original piano transcription of Luigi Boccherini’s String Quartet Op 9 No 4 in E flat major G 174
composition date: 1770
transcription date: 2013 (22 September – 5 October)
complete piano transcription (piano solo arrangement) of all 3 movements:
YouTube channel (embedded links below)
(1st movement completed but not yet posted)
Completing String Quartet Op 2 No 2 (project tbpt100) and Op 58 No 1 (project tbpt81) brought on me a “Boccherini spree”: I suddenly decided to transcribe as many quartets as possible by this author. That couldn’t be more right since as a general rule I transcribe the music I like the most, and this is the music I like the most right now.
I had already lived through a “Boccherini trance period” before – towards the end of 2011, carrying on to 2012 – when it became the only classical music I wanted to listen, the only one I listened, for months on end. The only other author able to break through this spell, but only temporarily, is Mozart – that should give you an idea of the strength of this “trance”.
At that time it was “only” a “listening” spree. I was mostly engrossed in the String Quintets and when I couldn’t find any more quintets I started collecting the Quartets and the Trios. I didn’t think seriously about transcribing (only as a wishful, fleeting dream) since they sounded so good already, it would’ve been impossible to make them sound better. I believed that especially about the Quintets. The more God-tier a work is, the more I hesitate to transcribe it. Even though I always work (transcribe or compose) out of love and passion for the music, when the original work is so wholesome and perfect at first there is an unpleasant feeling of “sin” at the idea of transcribing it. Thankfully, so far this has always been nothing more than a mental block – I’ve always been happy of the results and glad to have undertaken the project, all the more if the original work was a true masterpiece.
While I still see Boccherini’s String Quintets as “divine class” works (as I have always seen the Mozart Piano Concertos), over time I realized I could have a (better, easier) chance with his other chamber music, notably the quartets and the trios. Mind you, they retain all the charms of the best Boccherini, it’s just that they feel more “accessible” to the transcriber. It’s not only a matter of “less voices”, it’s as if the whole sound texture was less tightly woven, meaning, easier to unravel (and then re-weave in a different form – that’s another view of the transcriber’s work) They’re all great works that need to be known more, but they’re still a tad more “down to earth” (less divine, less untouchable) than the quintets.
My first Boccherini spree “ended” on the String Quartets and the String Trios – mostly on the Quartets – so when the second came round, it started back where it left – on the Quartets. But this time, it is also a “transcribing spree”, brought on the momentum of having completed / climbed the mountains called Op 2 No 2 (G 160) and Op 58 No 1 (G 242).
Leaving the idea of transcribing the complete Op 58 for later, I set my sights on Op 2 and set to the crazy idea of trascribing the whole set of 6 quartets.
However, the set I was listening more at the time was the Op 9, particularly the second half No 4, 5, 6.
The Op 9 was written some 5 years later than the Op 2 and the style has already evolved a lot, it is now more wholesome, already very close to full maturity. (Boccherini’s evolution of style is not nearly as evident as in other composers (see Beethoven!) but is still present nonetheless.)
As far as I know there is only one commercial recording of the 6 String Quartets composing the Op 9 (G.171 – G.176): performed by Artaria Quartet, on Musica Antigua Aranjuez label, CD code “MAA004”. Thankfully, it is both a complete recording and a great one [I love the soft and warm feeling of the strings especially in No.5 and 6]. Regretfully, it is not an easy CD to get a hold of. I bought a digital download copy on http://www.emusic.com; last time I looked, a physical copy of the CD (provided you can buy one) would have cost three times more – but personally I think the music contained inside is invaluable.
So this was my reference recording of the original work – the only one available!! (Hey, come to think of it that was also true for Op.58 No.1 and Op.39 No.3!) As for the score, I got a parts one from IMSLP.org. When I bought the CD (about a year ago!) the scores weren’t available yet! They were uploaded on IMSLP months later thanks to the Sibley library merging project. I previously wrote, “be thankful for every full score you can find”. I shall add “be also thankful for every parts score you can find, because for many works you won’t even find a parts one!!”. [An example? The 6 String Quartets Op.33, always by Boccherini. There is a CD available (cpo label, I have bought it of course) but no score online.]
I chose No.4 in E flat major for the same ol’ reason, it was my favorite. I especially like the dreaming Adagio and the hovering Allegro. After finding out a score was posted, I absolutely wanted to try playing myself the Adagio – my limited playing skills at least grant me the tackling of slow movements. I had tears in my eyes when I heard the notes coming out of my fingers. [I thought, by golly, this is why I’m striving to trascribe for the piano, I’m not wrong in what I want to do!]
Eventually I transcribed the whole Adagio at the digital piano and the other two movements at the computer, with some quality-checking at the piano. Since the Allegro and Minuetto were transcribed at the computer, they were ready for release. I’m still undecided if I shall release a sequenced version of the Adagio (for consistency) or a recording of me playing it. I’ll probably post both, when ready.