Mozart,The Twelve Original Duets, K 487, Basset Horn

Dear Sherman Friedland—

There is a set of Mozart Duets (six total) published by International Music, edited by Stanley Drucker. Were these originally written for two clarinets, or some other instruments? Can you tell me where I might find information on them I could use for program notes?

I would appreciate any help you may be able to provide and I thank you in advance for your time.


Dear JW.

The duets that you mention are transcriptions  of Violin Sonatas and as such are not originally written for two clarinets.
This is an interesting controversy because Mozart was so very prolific. Anyone can take any duet for any instruments and frequently do, but I feel that these duets of which you speak are K 487, the Twelve Duets for ….well something. No one can decide if they were written for so-called French Horns, or for Basset Horns. There are 12 and the arrangement of which you speak could be of 6 of them. Neither International Music nor Stanley Drucker have any credence as conveyors of actual urtext(meaning totally historically accurate) concerning Mozart.
Here is the listing from his works:
12 Duos, K487 (496a)
AMA XV, no. 3; NMA VIII:21
Vienna, 27 Jul 1786 (autograph)
2 hn
No. 1: Allegro
No. 2: Menuetto (Allegretto)
No. 3: Andante
No. 4: Polonaise
No. 5: Larghetto
No. 6: Menuetto
No. 7: Adagio
No. 8: Allegro
No. 9: Menuetto
No. 10: Andante
No. 11: Menuetto
No. 12: Allegro
Of autograph MS only nos. 1, 3 and 6 survives (dated as above). On these pages Mozart makes no mention of instrumentation, but expert opinion now favors horns rather than basset-horns.

There is some really important information here, and that is concerning the wonderful Basset Horn, for which in my opinion, Mozart wrote these duets. They are not a clarinet, but are quite similar in sound toa clarinet in the alto tessitura. This is not to say alto clarinet, the kind one finds in bands. Thi is an instrumentfor which Mozart wrote only briefly, but wonderfully, in the Requiem.  They are beautiful in an almost unearthly manner. They look nothing like a clarinet, but like some kind of hybrid between a clarinet and a strange bassoon. I am going to put the address here of the first movement of the Requiem . Actually, it can be found on YOU Tube, complete, conducted by John Elliott Gardener in his youth and it is worth keeping, for the Basset Horns and the performance itself, which was filmed in a beautiful church in Barcelona. I know those interested will find this great work , and I think a great performance of same.

The performance(not to digress) is very Baroque in nature, and for me the best, with the Sussmayer completion. Check it out, clarinetists and music lovers.

The only other works for Basset Horn and Clarinet are the two Concertpieces for Clarinet Basset Horn and Cello, by Mendellsohn, which I’ve played so many times, but always with Cello.

I have played duets by Mozart literally all of my playing life, but almost always arrangements from any number of his works, including operas. These are the only actual duets written for two similar instruments and they had no designation as to specificity. Perhaps there is no real answer to your question.

I would suggest you look up the K487 and check them against your six as it could be that they are one and the same, or at least six of them are.
Mozart has been arranged to death, but these are the only actual instrumental duets with which I’m familiar. As you can see, they have been arranged for pairs of almost anything.

Let us say, he meant Basset Horns.
Good luck,

The original Mozart Duets K 498 are as I’ve mentioned , written by Mozart for either Basset Horns or Horns. Not an arrangement or a transcription.



2 Responses to Mozart,The Twelve Original Duets, K 487, Basset Horn

  1. trialand3rror says:

    Dear Mr Friedland,

    Though it is your full perogative… I find it a little odd that you have deleted both mine and JimReeders comments pointing out that the duets mentioned by JW are most likely the arrangements/transcriptions of violin sonatas KV 376, 379, 378 (Volume I duets 1-3) (I do not know which sonatas are Volume II, but JR mentioned 380).

    The International Music Company edition is _edited_ by Stanley Drucker, but the original _arrangement/transcription_ is by Wilhelm Sadowsky and Otto Büttner. I just thought JW might find this useful for his program notes…

  2. Thank you. JW can use what you have added for the Program Notes.
    Best regards, SF

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