original piano transcription of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Canon “Lacrimoso son io” in A minor KV 555
composition date: 1788 (September 2)
transcription date: 2012 (April 30)
complete piano transcription (piano solo arrangement) of the single movement
YouTube channel (embedded links below)
Starting with the three canons KV 555, 554, 553 I eventually transcribed all the complete Canons by Mozart. I had already done the KV 89 before but I still hadn’t considered at the time to do all the others as well.
In case you don’t know, the basic principle in a Canon is to work with only a melody line / theme and repeat it across multiple voices, shifted in time. In this piece for example there are four voices. The theme is started by the first voice, followed by the second voice 4 bars later, then the third voice which starts 4 more bars later, and finally the fourth voice even 4 more bars later. Now starting where all voices are at work, begins a “repeat”: in fact what follows could be repeated endlessly as there is no definite “ending” in the original.
The number of voices varies from piece to piece: in Mozart the minimum is 2 voices, with a maximum of 12(!) voices.
All voices play the exact same theme, at the same pitch, and at a certain point you don’t know anymore who’s playing what: the same melody works both as main line and accompaniment of itself.
To transcribe that for the piano I couldn’t simply splatter all voices together at the same pitch as in the original: that wouldn’t be pianistic at all, it would sound incomplete and sketchy – possibly even spooky. So I tried this: I transposed the second and fourth voice one octave below, assigning them to the left hand, while the first and third stayed at their original pitch, for the right. I never changed the moment when the voices start. With this simple trick, I achieved a more pianistic distribution of the notes between the hands. It’s not the only solution possibile: the same trick can be used in various ways. In fact I applied it more or less in all the other canons, in various flavors.
Another task I had to do for every canon was to choose a cut-off point and compose an ending, since there isn’t any ending in the original. I also chose freely across the various canons how much times to play the repeat part and also if / how to variate the repeats.
I didn’t transcribe the Canons that are known for sure today to be “not by Mozart”, although they are present in the Kochel catalog.
Mozart used various languages and text sources for his Canons, sometimes writing the text himself. The content ranges from serious, even religious, to comical and raunchy. In this case the text is in Italian and it says “Lacrimoso son io / perduto ho l’idol mio”, which roughly translates to “I’m full of tears, I’ve lost my beloved”. This is poetic / operatic / courtly Italian, no one today would use “lacrimoso” to mean “sad” nor “idolo” to refer to one’s beloved. I bet you thought “idol” referred to a singing and dancing schoolgirl, didn’t you? 🙂