Mozart K407 – We should be playing this work more often

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In my summer practice I’ve kept coming back to the Mozart Quintet for horn and strings K407, and the more I look at this the less I understand why this work is rarely performed.

Sure, it is for horn and an unusual string quartet of violin, two violas, and cello. Good luck putting that group together! But it can be performed other ways. One of those ways is done sometimes, there is an arrangement for horn, violin, and piano that is pretty effective really. Another way is you could play the work with piano only, which recasts the work into more of a sonata sounding work.

At this point some readers are thinking hey, the last movement of the K407 is in the Mason Jones Solos for the Horn Player book, and those readers would be correct. That one movement is played pretty often for horn and piano; in fact, it was the solo I took to contest when I was a high school senior. I have also performed the second movement from an old Sansone edition for horn and piano, it is a great movement that I know some have used (with adjustment to horn in D) as a second movement to “complete” Mozart 1.

Looking on YouTube, maybe I need to look harder, but I can’t find any performances of K407 with piano except for the last movement (this one, for example). There have been at least two versions of the complete work published for horn and piano, a complete edition by Mason Jones that seems to be out of print and also Peters has a version in print for horn and piano. There probably are others. I strongly suspect it would sound rather nice with piano.

I go back again to that question, this piece has some wonderful melodies and moments, why is this not performed more often? High Bb shows up in every movement so that might deter some people, and others are just not fans of arrangements for artistic reasons. Still, I’ve been practicing it on valved horn and on natural horn, I think how Mozart has you approach the high notes is pretty friendly. And yes, to play it with piano is not as Mozart wrote it, but I would argue that I think an audience would find it an attractive work, give it some thought as you think about your recital choices.

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