Mozart: Serenade in B flat, K361 (Gran Partita); Serenade in C minor, K388

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Serenade in B flat, K361 (Gran Partita); Serenade in C minor, K388
PERFORMER: Harmonie de l’Orchestre des Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901570
After settling in Vienna in 1781 Mozart took a close interest in music for wind band. With a keen eye on career opportunities, he made arrangements of arias from his own operas for Joseph II’s ‘Imperial Harmonie’, established in May 1782. Although he failed to gain a desirable court position, Mozart developed the genre from galant music, suited for light entertainment, to music of grander stature with greater emotional range. The dark-hued C minor Serenade shows his greater seriousness of purpose and the majestic ‘Gran Partita’ is undoubtedly the finest work in the wind band literature.

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Herreweghe and the Harmonie de l’Orchestre des Champs Elysées give a splendid account of this last work. After a grand opening Largo, they invigorate the following Allegro with alert ensemble and playful variety of vivid instrumental colours. They deftly contrast the different minuet and trio characters in the second and fourth movements, and the heavenly oboe solo in the Adagio (famously quoted in Amadeus) is beautifully phrased. The last three movements confirm this band’s superb soloist skills and satisfying corporate blend.

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Both Herreweghe’s group and the Harmoniemusik of London display a sensitive grasp of the C minor Serenade’s dramatic potential. However, the French musicians give a more compelling account of the score’s organic evolution, against the Londoners’ more direct approach. The French recording is atmospherically reverberant, although detail is sometimes blurred in the faster passages, while their rivals benefit from admirably clear, brightly lit sound. Harmoniemusik’s stylish performances of octets by Mozart’s Bohemian contemporary, Josef Myslivecek, provide a fascinating context for this repertoire, giving its programme added appeal.