Opera Senza

Mozart: Don Giovanni (arr. Triebensee)

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Arrangements of operas for wind ensemble were fairly common in the Classical era. They served the purposes of advertising the music before the premiere, or making it available to players and patrons for private performances thereafter. Mozart occasionally made the arrangements himself, although none of his survive. The standard orchestration, consisting of a wind octet (double oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns) and sometimes a string bass, was known as a Harmonie ensemble. (The octet is in fact the ensemble Mozart employs for the onstage ensemble in the last scene of the opera in the Don's palace.) The arrangement here, by Josef Triebensee was probably written in 1788, a year after its premiere. His version, plus several newly orchestrated movements, lasts about an hour, and includes about a third of the music from the opera. It consists of the overture and vocal solos and ensembles; unfortunately, the palace scene, with the interaction of the Harmonie and the full orchestra, is too contrapuntally complex to arrange for an octet. The selections included, though, are charming and graceful. Triebensee's arrangement is dutiful and fully idiomatic, but conventional, and lacks the sparkle of Ulf-Guido Schäfer's contemporary arrangement of Così fan tutte for the wind quintet, Pentaèdre, recorded by Atma Classique. The performance by Opera Senza, a group that specializes in arrangements of operatic repertoire as diverse as Mozart, Beethoven and Smetana, is spirited and technically polished, but a little too well mannered to be fully persuasive in Mozart's more boisterous or diabolical moments. MDG's sound is good, but doesn't have the smoothness or presence of its best efforts.

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