Adapting works for alternate forces has been vital throughout history – and the practice has an equally important present, explains Hugh Robertson.

Arrangements Mendelssohn transcription of Bach

In 1799, in Vienna, 30 year-old Ludwig van Beethovenpublished his Septet, Op. 20. He had had some recent success with his first batch of string quartets, and his first two symphonies were about to establish him as a serious artistic force. But it was the Septet that was his first major triumph, and the one that gave him enough financial independence to continue – and much of its success was because of the multitude of different arrangements that were made of the piece and disseminated to the enthusiastic Viennese public. At the...