On 14 February 2019 at London’s St John’s Smith Square, at one o'clock, period-instrument wind ensemble Boxwood & Brass will give the first performance of a recently discovered arrangement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Septet Op. 20. Originally composed for wind and strings in c.1799, the Septet was Beethoven’s most popular work during his lifetime, so much so that he apparently remarked ‘I wish it were burned!’.
In 1805, Beethoven’s student and trusted collaborator, the young pianist Carl Czerny made an ambitious arrangement of the Septet for a 6-part ‘Harmonie’ of two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons. Czerny’s virtuosic ‘remix’ pushes the boundaries of what is possible on early 19th-century instruments, showing them to be as agile as their string counterparts and bringing a new range of colours to the piece. His arrangement was based on an early working manuscript of the Septet, and includes many differences from the piece as it is familiar today.
Yet Czerny’s arrangement seems never to have been performed. Boxwood & Brass’s Robert Percival has spent several years researching it and making a performing edition. ‘I’ve avoided transforming Czerny’s arrangement back into the version of the Septet that is known today’, says Robert. ‘I wanted it stand on its own merits as a different piece of music.’
Boxwood & Brass are giving the first performances of the Czerny Septet during their 2018-19 season. They are also recording the arrangement as part of their 2-CD project ‘Beethoven Transformed’, for release during 2020 on Resonus Classics. The recording will include early-19th century wind versions of the Seventh Symphony and Sonata Pathetique, and a newly-commissioned arrangement of Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ incidental music.
Founded in 2013, Boxwood & Brass brings together the emerging generation of British period wind-instrument players to advocate for neglected wind chamber music and harmoniemusik of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Members of the group work regularly with top orchestras from across Europe, including the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Gabrieli, L’Orchestre de Champs-Elysees and Spira Mirabilis. In-depth scholarly research into style and repertoire is important to us, as is promoting the highest standards in period wind playing. A determinedly disrespectful attitude to the music canon manifests itself in our programming, which often features new arrangements made for the group in the best historical traditions.