Franklin Stöver (1953-)

Salieri Concerto reinvented: Program Notes

10 Mar 2023 News

In a completely different version of Antonio Salieri's Concerto in C (1773) for piano and orchestra, the 3-movement work has been reimagined as a double concerto for clarinet, 'cello and piano. 

Double Concerto in C (1773) for clarinet, violoncello & piano

by Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)

Reconstructed arrangement with cadenzas & notes by Franklin Stöver

Dedicated to Frealon N. Bibbins (1926-2013) clarinetist

Allegro maestoso – Larghetto - Andantino


This unusual arrangement of an early keyboard concerto by Antonio Salieri makes his music available to clarinetists in a unique and extended form. While it is faithful to the original expression, the arrangement does not add anything new to the field of Salieri scholarship but celebrates the composer in a different light that some may find edifying. We know that Salieri did not compose a solo work for the instrument, but he didn't hesitate to write clarinet parts for most of his operas and for his numerous wind serenades. For performers of Mozart, Stamitz, Beer, Molter and composers of this era, clarinetists would have held Salieri in high esteem as a possible choice. And if it had not been for the composers' nephew, a famous clarinetist who had an acumen for composing, we would not be wondering if Salieri kept a clarinet piece stashed away somewhere under a heap of forgotten manuscripts.

To our knowledge, no such work was ever discovered, but here, with this transcription we can imagine the possibility of a major work for clarinet by the Master. True, the following composition was written for solo cembalo, not clarinet, so why was this particular work chosen to be arranged for an entirely different instrumentation? The rationale may appear to lack common sense, but if one entertains the musical fantasy that follows, the idea becomes strangely believable and perhaps charming. The story is not particularly outlandish as it is built on well known facts that the more erudite musician will enjoy for its clever originality.

I have already hinted at the person who is at the center of this whimsy, and I can say with some timidity that a nod from beyond the grave was received to complete the task in my dual role as transcriber and raconteur. Less dramatically, Hans R Rookmaaker propounded that “art needs no justification” which makes l'art pour l'art the operating principle. Resisting the temptation to go the easy route, our scenario centers around Salieri's nephew Girolamo, clarinetist and composer par excellence.

It may be interesting to mention a similar transcription project to this that involved the last movement of a Mozart piano concerto. In 1940 clarinetist Simeon Bellison released a version of W.A. Mozart's Rondo in Bb Major. Composed in 1782 as K. 382, Mozart intended it to be a substitute finale to his Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major. In Bellison's adaptation for clarinet and piano he renamed it Concerto Rondo in Bb Major (Carl Fisher, publisher), with the solo clarinet part in this case fashioned from Mozart's piano solos while the accompaniment was made from redistributed materials. Bellison's recreation for clarinet makes no more sense than this Salieri transcription, but it satisfies the wants of clarinetists who are fond of Mozart.

Of the 40 or so operas from Salieri's pen, around 30 were given clarinet parts; with some determination it may be possible to locate within the pages of these scores clarinet solos worthy of extracting to perform, but that is another matter. It may be interesting to note that during Salieri's lifetime, the clarinet went through an important phase of development from having 5 keys to adding another 7 or 8 keys by the time of Salieri's death in 1825. Girolamo Salieri, the composers' nephew who was in Vienna around the time of his uncle's death probably would have played on one of those 12 or 13 key clarinets pitched in either C or Bb.

But unlike Mozart, Salieri did not compose a great deal of instrumental music. His main output of wind/string/keyboard works were created over the span of some eight years before becoming a full-time opera composer. Of special note are his six concerti and two wind serenades, composed between 1770-1778. These made-to-order concerti are substantial and feature one, two, or three solo instruments with orchestral accompaniment. Thus, if any arrangement or transcription of Salieri's instrumental music is contemplated, it should logically come from this period of activity or from opera overtures. And if the intent is to develop a new solo work from out of his instrumental output, we have to narrow our focus to works featuring soloists. This focus eliminates from consideration ensemble works like Salieri's 'Picciola Serenata' and his 'Serenata in Bb' (both from 1778), 'Armonia per un templo della notte' (1795) for winds, the '26 Variations on the Folia di Spagna' (1815), and wind ensemble arrangements by Johann Nepomuk Went (1745-1801) of Salieri opera highlights.

The six concerti alluded to include a Triple Concerto for violin, oboe, 'cello and orchestra (1770), three keyboard concerti - two for piano and one for organ (1773), the Double Concerto for flute & oboe (1774), and the Concertino da Camera for flute & orchestra (1777). As we can see, there are no solo compositions for clarinet, but following the composers' pattern of joining two or more non-keyboard instruments in virtuosity, it would not be difficult to imagine a Salieri double concerto for clarinet plus another instrument.

As to choice of concerto to transcribe, reason and aesthetics were considered above everything else to facilitate an artful revoicing and part distribution of the chosen work. Merely substituting one solo instrument for another was not the answer, so a restructuring of one of the piano concertos was found to be the best vehicle for a “new” work featuring clarinet. The less 'keyboardistic' work turned out to be the better choice for this project, settling on Salieri's Piano Concerto in C. The decision to add 'cello as the other voice was based partly on the composers' inclusion of 'cello in his Triple Concerto for violin, oboe, 'cello and orchestra. Here, the composer combined 'cello with a treble reed wind which we can say, set a precedent that could be applied to another reed instrument, the clarinet. In transferring a virtuostic piano part to non keyboard instruments, provision had to be made to cover the extremes of its range. Violoncello, combined with clarinet served ably to cover the important solo parts contained in both hands of the solo piano part. When seen causally alongside the Triple Concerto with its new part distributions and layering, it is interesting to spot graphic similarities between the two works.

Salieri's Concerto in C

First, let us view the unadulterated, original version of the work. Concert pianist Max Uriarte regularly performs Salieri's two piano concertos and has this to say of the Concerto in C:

“The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C begins with an Allegro maestoso, whose thematic material exhibits great rhythmic wealth in the midst of remarkable pianistic writing brilliance. The atmosphere changes dramatically in the second movement, marked Larghetto 'alla Sicilian.' In A minor, Salieri opposes elegiac singing of the solo instrument to the mysterious pizzicati in the strings, creating a dialogue to great effect. Is it perhaps possible to foresee the extraordinary Adagio from Mozart's Concerto No. 23 KV 488, written much later in 1786? The final movement, Andantino (now, equivalent to an Allegretto), is a stylized minuet form of rondo, whose charm lies in a delightful contrast between the refrain and a Gallant of three different episodes, always entrusted to the soloist. In this work, Salieri realizes a true synthesis of his art, applying his skills as a composer of music for theater in concert for piano, thus renewing in a very personalized way the relationship between soloist and orchestra.”

The clarinet in Salieri's Vienna

The position of the 18th century clarinet in Salieri's time had an evolving nature to it that included technical improvements along with professional development of musicians. Proficient players were few at first but increased over time. Salieri's acceptance of the clarinet was tied to the availability of good players near his work in Emperor Joseph II's court. In 1767, the clarinet had gained a certain level of respectability in Vienna and in Mannheim. That year, Gluck wrote two parts for the clarinet for his opera, Alceste. Through that opera, Salieri became associated with Gluck as harpsichordist in its first performance. In 1770, a new key to the low end of the clarinet was added, enabling F/C to be sharped. In 1772, Breitkoph advertised its first ever clarinet concerto by Konrad Stark (now lost). The following year, in 1773, the Stadler brothers made their first appearance in Vienna, most likely playing on the clarinet with the new F#/C# key. All of these developments led to the acceptance of the clarinet in the Burgtheater opera orchestra in 1778 and to Salieri starting to write parts for it. His opera, L’Europa riconosciuta was performed at the inaugural celebration of La Scala in 1778 and was the first of his operas to include the clarinet.

Although Johann Denner (1655-1707) in Nuremburg is credited for developing the first clarinet prototype between 1690-1710, further refinements appear to have gone to Paris and Mannheim before Anton Stadler appeared on the scene in Vienna in 1773; before that Austrian clarinet makers were not taking a leading role in development. The situation in Vienna changed with a concert given on March 21, 1773 at the Kärntnertortheater, marking the first public appearance of the two brothers in Vienna. So, in 1773 Vienna, the clarinet caused a stir, the same year Salieri completed his two piano concertos. We can only speculate that if these clarinet developments were more in Salieri's orbit, he would have composed for it.

Clarinet in C or Bb?

In Salieri's time, the clarinet was commonly available in the keys of C, Bb, and occasionally D. Because the Bb clarinet eventually took over as the leading instrument of choice, most every work composed for C clarinet was transposed to the Bb clarinet. The number of works composed for C clarinet are many, and include: Concerto nr. 1 and Sinfonia Concertante no. 5 by Ignaz Pleyel, Concerto in C by Giovanni Chinzer, Concerto no. 1 in F by Frédéric Blasius, Symphony in C by Jean-Xavier Lefèvre, Air Varie by Joseph Mayseder, Serenade no. 3 (from Divertimento K.270) by W.A. Mozart, Concerto in F by Karl Stamitz, Partita op 76 for wind octet by František Krommer, Variazioni by Gioachino Rossini, etc. etc. Thirteen or fourteen key clarinets pitched in C and Bb were fairly common around 1812. For instance, Iwan Müller produced such a clarinet in 1812. Girolamo, who would have been 18 years old at the time, likely played on such an instrument.

To accommodate players, individual parts in C and transposed Bb clarinet parts are included in the set of parts. The C and Bb parts are identical except in two areas: in the 1st movement at bar 102, beat 3: the written note for C clarinet is F while the written note for Bb clarinet is low E. The other note difference can be found in the 3rd movement in beat 1 of the second ending before bar 100: C clarinet plays a low G, whereas Bb clarinet plays a written low F.

The Story: “artist of the sound of Trieste" enters

Most people associate Antonio Salieri with the 1984 movie, Amadeus, a fictional story that unjustly demonized Salieri. There are no other examples in music history quite like Salieri's that elevated a composers' worth by first tearing them down. Because Salieri has become connected to fabulous fictions, my own is included here. The basic parts of the story have already been subtly interwoven into the previous notes to provide a foundation for the story. For artistic and intellectual reasons, this indulgence gave my transcription a certain raison d'être, so perhaps the reader will indulge me a bit further in the sharing of this scenario.

A quick synopsis of the story is told by sharing its ending: it concludes with a memorial concert in Vienna in 1825 given by clarinetist Girolamo Bartolomeo Salieri (1794-1838) in honor of his deceased uncle, Antonio Salieri. Girolamo is 31 years old and his uncle had bequeathed the clarinetist a small annuity in his will. The composer left no solo works for clarinet, so Girolamo knew his choices were limited if he was to perform a work of his uncle's. He arranges one of his uncle's early instrumental works for clarinet, 'cello and piano and performs it on either a clarinet in C or Bb. No one is familiar with it because it hadn't been heard in over 50 years. We can almost hear the audience applauding as he takes a bow. Even though the concert is fiction, there are some interesting facts concerning the Salieri's that won't hurt us to look at.

Antonio Salieri's brother, Francesco (1741-1826) was also a composer of some note but little of his work has been preserved. His son, Girolamo (1794-1838) took up the clarinet as a young man and became a fine player. Today, Girolamo Salieri's name survives as a composer of mostly clarinet music. The Salieri's hailed from Legnago near Venice and knew leading musicians of the day. Uncle Antonio was well aware of and supportive of his nephew's accomplishments, for in December of 1815, Girolamo wrote to him about being recommended to the principal clarinet position of the Opera Theatre of Trieste. And in 1822, Girolamo was hired on as a Professor of clarinet at the music school of Trieste. The following year, Antonio left Girolamo an annuity of 120 florins in his will, calling him the "artist of the sound of Trieste."

Shortly after the passing of Antonio on May 7 1825, we see Girolamo performing on clarinet and basset horn in Vienna and Leipzig, according to reviews published in the Allgemeinen Musikalischen Zeitung of Leipzig. And we can guess that he may have performed something of his own making, demonstrating his superior skills. Such works include his Adagio con variazioni, Variations on Carnival of Venice, Serenata, Divertimento, Fantasy from Rigoletto and Fantasy from I Capuleti e Montecchi, to name just a few. (Several of these works have been recorded to great effect by clarinetist Luigi Magistrelli and Claudia Bracco, pianist by Da Vinci Classics in 2019). Obviously, Girolamo had the skill to arrange and compose, and had he included anything written by his famous uncle in the imaginary memorial concert, it would haven been a transcription of a preexisting work.

It should be observed that when Girolamo was carving out a name for himself (1815-1822 roughly), his uncle's most productive years were behind him; by 1800, the bulk of Salieri's operas had been composed, and from 1800 to 1810, his last handful of operas, though excellent, were only warmly received. From 1810 onward, his attention turned to sacred music, reworkings of earlier operas, and some orchestral music.

About the transcription

In nearly all circumstances, the arrangement retains the original sense of the work. Although taken apart and reassembled into a trio format, it is recognizable as Salieri's Concerto in C, although the title was changed to Double Concerto to set it apart from the piano concerto. The main changes that occurred in the transcription process focused on transforming the many pianisms into idiomatic parts for the new instrumentation. As such, a few octave adjustments were made and solo phrases were divided up two or three ways depending on the situation. All original phrasing and articulation was left intact, although articulation was added for the new parts.

About the cadenzas

Salieri's score indicates there can be two impromptus: one in the first and one in the second movements. He composed a short cadenza for the third movement which is used here, but for the other movements, the matter is left up to the performer. For this edition, duo-cadenzas were newly composed quoting thematic fragments of preceding material, as is the tradition. Reference to Giovanni Carli Ballola's edition were consulted for their suitability but considered overly pianistic, especially for the first movement. However, parts of Ballola's cadenza for the second movement gave rise to a new duo cadenza.

Orchestral version with parts

A full score with parts of the Double Concerto is available for a fee. The instrumentation follows Salieri's original which calls for 2 oboes, 2 horns & string orchestra. Contact:


Salieri: Ein Musiker im Schatten Mozarts? – Eine Biografie, Munich-Zurich (1989), by Volkmar Braunbehrens; More Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past by Pamela Weston, (1977), Fentone Music Ltd., U.K.; Müller's "Gamme De La Clarinette" (c. 1812) and the Development of the Thirteen-Key Clarinet, by Albert R. Rice. The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 56, June 2003).

Girolamo Salieri Chamber Music for Clarinet. Luigi Magistrelli, clarinet. (CD). Da Vinci Classics with notes by Luigi Magistrelli. Scores referenced: autograph score from the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Vienna), and a 2-piano reduction published by Edizioni Suvino Zerboni. Milan, edited by Giovanni Carli Ballola with piano reduction by Pietro Spada, 1981.

Copyright 2014 by Edition Hohenstaufen. All rights reserved.



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