The "Margarita" referred to in the title of this album was Margarita Teresa of Austria, who married the Habsburg monarch Leopold I in 1667. This event was marked by one of history's great spectacles: a balletto a cavallo or equestrian ballet involving 600 horses and 1,700 participants, who rehearsed for a year. Should Zhang Yimou by chance become interested in the historical performance movement, perhaps this remarkable event could be reconstructed sometime; it was documented in writings and engravings, and the present performers reenacted it on a small scale. The music of court composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer for the ballet is performed here (track 1), along with other ceremonial music and dances for the Habsburg courts and several sonatas for multiple trumpets, along with trombones and other low instruments. The latter, which are well covered in the booklet (in Italian, English, French, and German), are the most interesting on the program for casual listeners; the variation technique (especially in the Sonata XII, track 7, which also has an interesting humorous dimension explicated in the notes) leads into virtuoso territory. The string-based dances are less immediately appealing; they were parts of spectacles whose primary aspects were visual. But the music is engagingly played throughout, and the album belongs in the collections of anyone studying this phase of the mighty Habsburg monarchy.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim