Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble

Richard Strauss: Serenade, Op. 7; Symphonie for Winds "Cheerful Workshop"; Dvorák: Serenade, Op. 44

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In this CD, Bläserensemble Sabine Meyer brings together three of the classics of the late Romantic repertoire for large wind ensemble. In orchestration, spirit, and sometimes thematic material, all the pieces are indebted to the Harmoniemusik ensembles that were hugely popular in the late eighteenth century, and particularly to Mozart's Gran Partita, the masterpiece for that particular instrumental combination. The two pieces by Richard Strauss bookend his career. He wrote his Serenade for 13 winds at 17, and it demonstrates both a Mendelssohnian precocity and a delicacy of touch that recalls the Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's the first of Strauss' works to remain in the canon, and it's a real charmer -- graceful and melodious, without a hint of the grandiosity that sometimes characterized his later work. The symphony, titled "Cheerful workshop," lives up to its name in its ebullient character. It's scored for exactly the same ensemble as the Serenade and it's in four movements, and four times as long as well. Strauss pours a prodigality of thematic material and inventiveness into it, and while it's never ponderous, aesthetically it's worlds away from the brevity and clarity of the earlier work. Dvorák's Serenade in D minor includes cello and contrabass in the ensemble, and the extra weight in the lower register gives the work additional gravity when called for. It's also a playful work and it's never heavily scored; its strongest characteristics are its inventive nimbleness and the transparency of its form and orchestration. Bläserensemble Sabine Meyer, organized by clarinetist Meyer, performs brilliantly, which in the case of large chamber music like this means each member is fully and continually sensitive to his or her place in the entire fabric, and the balance and blend are just about perfect. Each member is a virtuoso as well as being a committed team player, and the level of playing is extraordinarily high. The sound is clean and intimate -- it's close enough to hear keys moving in the quieter passages -- but that only adds to the immediacy and realistic quality of the recording.

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