Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
PERFORMER: Wind Ensemble of Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Bastiaan Blomhert
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 088
In July 1782 Mozart wrote to his father that he was busy making an arrangement for Harmoniemusik of his new opera The Abduction from the Seraglio – catering for the current fashion of having wind bands in aristocratic households, from the Emperor’s downwards, playing ‘songs from the shows’ as dinner music. His arrangement was for many years thought lost, but the musicologist and conductor Bastiaan Blomhert believes it is the set of 17 numbers which he has discovered in the court library at Donaueschingen. It is certainly very skilfully scored for the standard octet of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons, and preserves some of the bigger arias at unusually full length. But would Mozart (even working from memory, as Blomhert suggests) have been willing to inflict as many little cuts on his own carefully balanced phrasing as there are here?

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In any case, Blomhert’s own performance with the expert ASMF wind players is beautifully paced and thoroughly enjoyable. The main problem is that more than an hour of virtually continuous octet texture, recorded in a bright acoustic, becomes wearing on the ear. So it’s best heard in small doses – or, for the authentic experience, in the background while you eat. Anthony Burton