Rotterdam Philharmonic Wind Soloists

Krommer: Octet Partitas for Winds

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Franz Krommer, born in Moravia as Frantisek Kramár, was spoken of together with Beethoven, Haydn, and Salieri in Vienna in the 1790s. His work has benefited from a modest revival at the hands of wind players, for his music for winds is beautifully suited to the medium. Consider the shimmering tonic-to-second passages on the cadential chords in the Andante movement of the Octet Partita in E flat major, Op. 79 (track 7), which would be difficult to transfer to any other medium. The four "octet partitas" on this album, published between 1803 and 1810 but probably written a bit earlier, are formally in the vein of Mozart's Serenade in C minor, K. 388: despite the titles suggesting incidental use, they are in the strict four-movement form of Classical quartets and symphonies, and they have a level of craft and seriousness that diverges from the expectations of the old Harmoniemusik or wind band music of the Austrian aristocracy. In this they do justify comparisons with Mozart and Beethoven. Although they don't have the formal experimentation that even the aging Haydn identified and took up, the lyricism of the slow movements does foreshadow the Romantic lyricism to come. The opening sonata-form movements are dense, with extraordinarily well-balanced roles for the instruments (actually there are nine: paired oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons, with an added contrabassoon doubling the bass line). The church sound is too remote for a music that was meant for the convivial chambers of the well-born, but it would be hard to imagine a more sensitive and technically adept performance of these works than that given by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Wind Ensemble. Wind players should get to know these works, especially at the budget price for which they're available here, and anyone who loves the Viennese classics will find much to enjoy in them.

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