Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 Transcribed for Viola
During Mozart's career, he seldom had an occasion to compose a viola concerto, and in fact, his only work which utilizes a solo viola was the Sinfonia Concerto K.V. 364.
Charlie Pikler, the former principal violist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, aimed to make Mozart's music accessible for violists of all levels and decided to transcribe Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 K.V. 218 for violists in 1989. You can find the solo score, here.
Based on Mozart's urtext, the transcription includes the traditional cadenzas by Joseph Joachim. Rather than transposing it down a 5th, Pikler also maintained the original key of D Major.
"In a transcription, I think it is awful to change the key unless absolutely necessary, especially in Mozart," Pikler told The Violin Channel.
"Each key in Mozart represents a certain emotion and/or character. D Major represents happiness and joy (such as the Posthorn Serenade and Divertimento Köchel Verzeichnis 334/320b). G major would communicate simplicity (namely Papageno in Magic Flute, Symphony # 27 Köchel Verzeichnis 199/161b, Symphony #17 Köchel Verzeichnis 129, and the Violin Concerto Köchel Verzeichnis 216)."
Additionally, by keeping it in D Major, Pickler wanted a solo violist to be able to use Mozart's original orchestral accompaniment or standard piano reduction.
According to Pikler, certain areas of the piece suited the viola quite well, like the low "E natural" at the end of the exposition.
"In general, I enjoyed changing the octave jumps," Pikler added. They are beautifully conceived in the original for the violin. I tried to re-voice the octave jumps to suit the viola in all movements! Whether I did as well as Mozart would have done, I can't evaluate!"
For a lot of the work, particularly the opening, Pikler chose to use the same pitch as the original violin concerto (which is very high for a viola). He explained that viola technique has improved much since the time of Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart. The latter had very low opinions of the violists at the time, as indicated in the manuscript of his Alto Trombone Concerto, "In the absence of a good trombonist, a good violinist can play it on the viola."
"Now, many violists are capable of playing this concerto," Pikler said, "In 1989, I over-fingered the part, but in hindsight, I wish I would have maintained a blank part free from fingerings!"
When asked if he thought Mozart would be happy with the work, Pikler wrote, "Since Mozart himself was both a violist and an arranger, he more than likely would have approved of a transcription such as this one."