Notes and Editorial Reviews
Octet Partitas for Winds: in F,
Rotterdam P Wind Ens
BRILLIANT 93759 (78: 11)
Although the tradition of wind band music (referred to as
in German) existed in 18th-century
France, it appears to have been more prominent in central Europe. The term referred to an assembly of wind-players that—from the 1780s forward—was made up of pairs of oboes or clarinets (sometimes both), bassoons, and horns. There were exceptions of course: sometimes a flute was added or the oboes were either replaced by or supplemented with English horns
The wind band came of age in 1782 when Emperor Joseph appointed a
that was made up of the finest available performers. The ensemble consisted of the oboists Treibensee and Wendt, the Stadler brothers as clarinetists, Rupp and Eisen playing horn, and bassoonists Kauzner and Drobney. This was the birth of a Viennese tradition, its characteristics later mirrored by the ensembles of several other aristocrats, including Princes Esterházy and Liechtenstein. The performers were first-class professional musicians, not liveried servants such as had often been previously employed for this kind of domestic music-making. The influence of this Viennese practice was widespread throughout Europe; Maximilian Franz took his Viennese
to Bonn when he became Elector of Cologne in 1784, and thereby pioneered the new vogue in Germany; the Lobkowitz
was probably the leading exponent of the Viennese tradition in Prague.
Their repertoire was technically and musically more advanced than anything written earlier; the greater part of it—and that which they used principally as dinner music—was something completely new, although it probably had strong connections with the French
of the 1760s and 1770s. Over the next several decades, many transcriptions were published throughout Europe, and many more were held in manuscript form by various court and monastery libraries. Probably the best known of all transcriptions is Mozart’s of “Non più andrai” from his
Le nozze di Figaro
(along with music by Sarti and Soler) as dinner music in
; he also used a
ensemble for a serenade in the garden scene of
Così fan tutte
. There were many original works as well, including the
of Haydn, written for the Esterházy ensemble, while the two wind serenades (K 375 and 388) of Mozart and Krommer’s 13 octet partitas were composed for one of the Viennese ensembles.
Franz Vinzenz Krommer (1759–1831) was born František Vincenc Kramá? in Kamenice in what is now the Czech Republic. Like his colleagues, he adopted the German form of his name, although he is occasionally referred to by the bilingual coupling of the two versions of his surname. He held a number of posts during his lifetime, ending with the post of chamberlain to the Austrian emperor in 1815. In this position, Krommer finally achieved financial security; he was feted by European musical establishments and his music was published across the continent, and even in the United States where they were popular with the Moravian communities.
Krommer was prolific and produced, in addition to his music for
, nine symphonies, a large number of concertos for violin and for wind instruments, and an enormous quantity of chamber music, including 36 string quintets and 70 string quartets, the latter being mentioned during Krommer’s lifetime in the same sentence as those of Haydn and Mozart. Krommer’s
—in contrast to the operatic transcriptions written for and performed by many of the wind bands—are far from simple. Their technical difficulty is suggestive of an accomplished ensemble, perhaps that of the Emperor, but some of the partitas originated in the 1790s when Krommer was regimental
to Duke Károlyi. The simplicity generally associated with the genre of
is shelved here; the looser, multimovement format of the serenade or divertimento is ignored; Krommer’s partitas follow a symphonic four-movement structure, and the instrumentation conforms to that of the Emperor’s ensemble.
Even though I have several recordings of Krommer’s wind partitas, my collection doesn’t hold a direct comparison to this compilation; even if it did, it would have to go a long way to top these readings from the wind section of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. They are expressively adept performers that form a synergetic partnership. The result is vitality, contrast, and commitment, resulting in poised, spirited, and extremely attractive readings from first note to last.
If you don’t know these works, this is an excellent way to make their acquaintance, and at this price, you have no reason to ignore this exceptionally played and well-recorded release.
FANFARE: Michael Carter
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