For many Mozart is more ‘perfector’ than ‘innovator’, a composer who drew on an already extant vocabulary to create some of the greatest works in European culture. In this recording, however, we are introduced to Mozart the ‘trailblazer’: the first composer in history to take wind instruments seriously. Whereas his colleagues were inclined to employ the so-called Harmonie merely to reinforce the general sonority, Mozart took it upon himself to exploit the character of each of these instruments, endowing them with a much more individualistic, distinctive role – as soloists, in the orchestra or in chamber music, the subject of this engaging release.
Such writing is evident in the Quartet for oboe and strings, a work of wide leaps and brilliant passages that was composed for the Mannheim virtuoso Friedrich Ramm, and the Flute Quartet in D – written for the highly accomplished amateur musician Ferdinand Dejean and in which the principal voice, equipped with pearling runs in the first movement, is treated with great care, displaying nothing of the composer’s supposed aversion to the instrument. Both works are milestones of their respective genres, and they are joined on this recording by three pieces originally composed for mechanical organ (and arranged for this recording by flautist Markus Brönnimann), originally commissioned by Count Deym to be used as accompaniment for a newly erected mausoleum in Vienna. Among these, the Fantasia in F minor K608 stands out as the most intense and dramatic, combining rigorous harmonic invention with memorable melody, polyphonic complexity and compositional virtuosity. Brönnimann’s suggestion as to a possible comparison with the works of the American-born composer Conlon Nancarrow, as mentioned in the booklet note, reveals just how forwardthinking this music was for its time.
At hand to perform these works is Ensemble Pyramide, a group whose diverse repertoire ranges from Baroque to 21st century and whose recital programmes are often based around the juxtaposition between new and old. Based in Zurich and awarded the city’s cultural stipend ‘Werkjahr für Interpretation’ in 2006, its recordings for radio and on CD (which take in labels such as Naxos and Ars Musici) are complemented by an active recording schedule throughout Europe.
- Recorded in 2013 in Switzerland.
- At the centre of this new recording are beautiful arrangements for wind ensemble of three works written originally for mechanical organ, works of surprising dramatic and emotional character, two of which are in the dark and tragic key of F minor. The arrangement for flute, oboe, violin, viola and cello enhances rather than diminishes the dramatic impact of the original works.
- The other two works are featuring wind instruments as soloist (a specialty of Mozart, the great emancipator of winds): the genial D major Flute Quartet and the delightful Oboe Quartet, works of great melodic invention and instrumental joy.
- Clear articulation, warmth of tone and infective pleasure characterise the performances of the Ensemble Pyramide, who already made a wonderful recording of French chamber music by Koechlin and Maurice Emmanuel on Brilliant Classics, BC 9422
- Booklet contains engaging liner notes on the music.