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Thread: Mozart symphonies transcribed for piano

  1. #1

    Default Mozart symphonies transcribed for piano

    To get all the notes of Symphony no. 40 by Mozart on the piano you need at least 7 pianos if not more because of 2 bass clef instruments and/or 2 treble clef instruments and/or 2 playing the same note.

    Here is how I would assign them;
    Primo Piano 1: flute part
    Secendo Piano 1: Oboe 1
    Primo Piano 2: oboe 2
    Secendo Piano 2: Bb clarinet 1(meaning you have to transpose everything down a half step since Bb is C on the Bb clarinet)
    Primo piano 3: Bb clarinet 2:
    Secendo piano 3: Bassoon 1
    Primo piano 4: Bassoon 2
    Secendo piano 4: Horn 1(Bb, Eb, or G horn meaning you have to transpose everything down by the difference between the note that is C on the original instrument and that same place of the staff on the piano)
    Primo piano 5: Horn 2(Eb or G)
    Secendo piano 5: 1st violins
    Primo piano 6: 2nd violins
    Secondo piano 6: Violas
    Primo piano 7: Cellos
    Secendo Piano 7: Contrabasses

    Now the way I would let them play is the person playing the flute part first practice on his own and let the others practice on their own. Than I would conduct a gradually increasing number of players until I have the whole 7 pianos. Would I actually need a bass instrument and a treble instrument per piano? This would be like right hand only so could I really have 4 instruments per piano 2 treble and 2 bass and thus half the number of pianos I need to 4 pianos? If so that would be awesome but than again they will have trouble with syncronizing 2 instruments for even just 1 player, more difficult than syncronizing left and right hands of a piano sonata that is because it would almost be like there is a polyrhythm even though everything is 2/2 for 1st movement, 6/8 for 2nd movement, 3/4 for 3rd movement, and 2/2 for 4th movement.

    Would I need to start with symphony no. 1 in Eb that is written for 2 oboes, 2 horns, and a string quartet thus 2 pianos and than go all the way to symphony no. 41 in C for flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 C horns, 2 C trumpets, Timpani in C and G and a String quartet adding up to 15 instruments for 4 pianos to really get the best performance of Mozart's Symphony no. 40?

  2. #2
    Record Label Executive SteveO's Avatar
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    May 2011
    Dartmouth, Canada


    Bellini48, where are you? A member who would know all about your post! PM Bellini48 if there is no response soon!


  3. #3
    Lead Vocalist Bellini48's Avatar
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    Jul 2013
    Argos, Greece


    Heavens above!!!
    It sounds like you're trying to reproduce another orchestra with a minimum amount of instruments!!! It is, sadly, not possible to reproduce all the instruments with their various rhythm particularities. That is why it is called 'Score Reduction'. A thing only the piano can do effectively, of course, but always 'reduced'. You have to let harmony lead you along. Capture all the chord progressions, accompany them with the timing, and you will effectively but not completely execute a symphony on the piano.
    I was forced to 'reduce' when I worked at the Teatro Massimo Bellini (Catania) when accompanying the opera Choruses. It is not an easy thing to do. You need to have an experienced 'sweeping' gaze of the score and be able to render the character of the composition to make it recognizable. The best performance of Mozart's 40th will never be totally realized on the piano. And uniting several pianos is prohibitive, and unlikely, seeing that it is difficult to sum several grands together and make sure they are tuned perfectly...not to mention the number and quality of performers needed for such a task. Ravel's Bolero was successfully 'reduced' to two pianos (Martha Argerich with another pianist) but it doesn't sound the same. I am personally a great advocator of originals, excepted the magistral orchestral rendering of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' by the impressive Ravel.
    But don't get overworked over this sort of dilemma, unless you have some kind of deadline?
    Read you around caters.
    Cogito, ergo sum...

  4. #4


    It is because polyrhythms are played all the time by expert pianists and I realized that I could half it to 4 pianos and 7 pianists so that it is a septet instead of a tetradecet or piano orchestra as some might call it and so that it isn't right hand only. The tuning is pretty much not a problem and extended pianos are needed for at least 1 pair of pianists if not all because what if there is contra octave written in contrabass which sounds an octave lower than written. Yes it is hard but you know just because something is extremely hard like this is doesn't mean it is impossible. I would conduct it 1 pianist at a time and eventually the pianists would not need a conductor just like a string quartet doesn't need one if they practice together enough. In other words I would first let one pianist play 2 parts than conduct 2 pianists with 4 parts, than 3 pianists etc. all the way to 7. And to get a really good performance I would need to have pianists experienced with polyrhythms and voila after all that you have symphony no. 40 on the piano. every single note of it. piano solo, duet, or quartet(that is 2 pianos 8 hands or the equivalent of 2 piano duets) just does not sound the same because a lot of notes are missing though you have the basic rhythm. Like for piano duet they basically have just 1st violins, 2nd violins, cellos, and bass parts and no woodwind or brass parts just the string quartet part of it. With 2 pianos 4 hands they might have a few woodwind or brass parts but are still missing a lot of notes. With 4 pianos 14 hands they are not missing 1 single note.

    The only problems I would run into with this 3 treble to 1 bass instrument ratio on the piano is uncomfortable overlap and 2 players playing the same note. I mean I myself have played piano solos where the left and right hand play the same note and I am like "Aren't I supposed to hear 2 middle C's or whatever the note is instead of 1?"

    Also I have heard that the record for most pianists at a piano is 16 pianists On 1 Piano. Now I don't see how that is possible because even 3 pianists on 1 piano is uncomfortable. Thats why most piano trios are 2 pianos 6 hands if they are all piano.
    Last edited by caters; 18-04-2014 at 23:01.

  5. #5

    Default is a piano duet. Other than the piano timbre it doesn't sound very similar to the original but has similarities. is a piano solo. It sounds even more dissimilar than the duet. In fact this is the primo half of the duet. This I think is the piano transcription for 4 pianos, 14 hands or at least 2 pianos, 8 hands because it sounds very similar excluding the piano timbre, even more so than the duet does. But this is 1% dissimilar as far as the notes and their duration and not transcribed exactly as a note for note transciption. this is the original symphony in comparison to the piano transcriptions

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