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Notes impossible to arrange for quartet as is, now what

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So I am in the middle of arranging Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 1 in F minor for a string quartet and all went fine. That is until I reached this section of the development:

2108944162_DevelopmentSonata1.png.88f0a91045cf0c6e27c9c651cf9134ef.png

It looks relatively easy to arrange. The first violin can take the notes of the top voice of the right hand(or in the case of the chords, the 2 upper notes), the second violin can take the alternating notes up until those notes go into the bass clef, at which point the viola can take over the alternating notes and the second violin can take the lower note of each of the chords. And the cello can take the bass voice. Oh, if only it were that simple. A few notes prevent me from doing this as you can see here:

1759233915_ImpossibletoarrangeBass.png.f20501519b152b9cfdfc4f54579b50f3.png

What I have circled in red here are notes outside of the cello's range. Here are a few solutions that I thought of:

Solution 1: Raising the bass voice up an octave

This solves the out of range issue but creates another much more significant issue, voice crossing. If I raise the bass voice up an octave, the cello will be higher up than the viola and at some points, higher up than even the second violin. This is not good. Yes, the cello does sometimes go up high in a string quartet, even sometimes into the treble clef, but this is usually when the cello is playing a solo part.

Solution 2: Rests

This is currently what I'm doing, putting rests in the cello where the out of range notes are. But this leads to another issue, it destroys the feel of the octave bass line that Beethoven has going on here. I did have to take out notes once so far, that being at the whole note chord before the repeat of the exposition, but I still got the harmony across there. Here, getting rid of the out of range notes destroys the octave feel and is just not acceptable. It would be like taking all the lower notes out of Bach's bass in Air on a G string, just not acceptable.

Solution 3: Expanding the ensemble to have a double bass

This would not destroy the bass line that Beethoven wrote down. Nor would it lead to voice crossing. In the places where the bass line is in the cello's range, I could have the cello and double bass play in unison. Then, when it gets out of the cello's range, I could have the double bass play those lower notes by itself to avoid the voice crossing issue that I already mentioned in solution 1. But then, what about all the measures before where it fit into your standard string quartet perfectly? Now I would have to add notes to the double bass in all of those measures. And this leads to the question of how to double. Doubling at the octave between cello and double bass is normal, but there are also some situations where doubling at the unison is better. And, there are some situations in which doubling between the cello and double bass is not the right thing to do outside of when it would lead to voice crossing with the other instruments.

Solution 4: Only raising out of range notes up an octave

This also avoids the voice crossing issue. But once again, just like solution 2, it destroys the octave feel of Beethoven's bass line. It also makes for some relatively difficult leaps, like for example a leap of a seventh between Bb and C. The original bass line by Beethoven is much smoother than the leapy bass line that would result if I raised the notes that are out of range up an octave.

So what should I do? Should I add a double bass to my ensemble, thus turning my string quartet into a string quintet?

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Maybe try the solution 4, but instead of simply raising the notes, try changing the technique. For example: if you decided the cello is going to play all the notes with the bow, write the out-of-range note one octave higher and as being pizz., so that you don't lose the difference of sound between the two notes. Also, it will solve the problem with weird leaps, because the pizz. sound will fade rapidly and the listener won't notice it.

It may not server your purposes, but I hope it was a useful idea.

Good luck! Jean.

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Solution 5: Transpose the whole piece to a different key, high enough so that the cello can play whatever bass notes Beethoven throws their way. If that B-flat is the lowest bass note, then you'd need to transpose the sonata from F minor to G minor. This will sidesteps all of the issues you mention in the other solutions.

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7 minutes ago, Tónskáld said:

Solution 5: Transpose the whole piece to a different key, high enough so that the cello can play whatever bass notes Beethoven throws their way. If that B-flat is the lowest bass note, then you'd need to transpose the sonata from F minor to G minor. This will sidesteps all of the issues you mention in the other solutions.

 

Actually, the lowest bass note is Ab, which means I would have to transpose it up to A minor if I went the transposition route. I know Beethoven did some transpositions in arrangements of his own works including yes, a piano sonata arranged for string quartet. But, I hear a significant change in character going from F minor to A minor. In the original F minor, it sounds pretty dramatic. I have the first theme transposed to A minor as a comparison at the bottom of the page.

The transposed theme doesn't really have that same dramatic character to it as the original, does it?

1 hour ago, Jean Szulc said:

Maybe try the solution 4, but instead of simply raising the notes, try changing the technique. For example: if you decided the cello is going to play all the notes with the bow, write the out-of-range note one octave higher and as being pizz., so that you don't lose the difference of sound between the two notes. Also, it will solve the problem with weird leaps, because the pizz. sound will fade rapidly and the listener won't notice it.

It may not server your purposes, but I hope it was a useful idea.

Good luck! Jean.

 

I didn't think of that, but that is a nice idea.

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@caters It does sound slightly more shallow in A minor when played on the piano, but strings have a much different timbre than the piano, so it might sound just fine. No matter what route you take, though, you'll have to sacrifice the integrity of this piece in one way or another, as it was composed specifically for the piano. The trick now is to decide which solution retains the most integrity.

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5 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

@catersNo matter what route you take, though, you'll have to sacrifice the integrity of this piece in one way or another, as it was composed specifically for the piano. The trick now is to decide which solution retains the most integrity.

 

This! This is the reason I dread arranging/orchestrating piano-specific pieces...especially for a small chamber group (such as a string quartet). Unless you plan on making this arrangement for a string orchestra, adding the double bass is pointless in my opinion. I am not totally familiar with this piece, so I can't really give any advice unless I know the context of what Beethoven wrote and what you have written so far. Just looking at the excerpt above, I personally would make the whole thing an octave higher starting the end of the 4th bar (with the Eb). Then three before the end, instead of the octaves going up, I would do the opposite....so the Bb(right below middle C) to the low Bb. Even though I don't know the piece, I'm pretty sure the half-note sforazandos are more important than the 8th note accompaniment, so I don't think the voice crossing issue you raised would be a problem.  Not the best solution, but I think it just might work in your case. 

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When you make an arrangement of this kind, one of the most important things is keeping the highest voice and the bass. I don't think the effect is changed a lot if some notes are transposed an octave higher.

What worries me a little bit is the fact that when you make a work like this you have not only to "share out" the voices of the piano between the string quartet, but to make the composition idiomatic for that ensemble.

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