British wind Music Before 1981

Chapter 2: The Classical Harmonie

"There was music every day, during dinner, and in the evening at the inn where I lodged, which was the Golden Ox; but it was usually bad, particularly that of a band of wind instruments, which constantly attended the ordinary. This consisted of French horns, clarinets, hautboys and bassoons; all so miserably out of tune that I wished them a hundred miles off."

Dr Burney, travelling through Europe to research his General History of Music, was quite scathing about the background music which he heard in his lodgings in Vienna at the beginning of September, 1770. His feelings are clearly similar to those of us who object to the all-pervasive musak in our restaurants and pubs. But the vital importance of music as part of everyday life in the late eighteenth century can be gauged by a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a friend in Europe at the height of the American Revolution, quoted by David Whitwell in "A Concise History of the Wind Band":

I retain for instance among my domestic servants a gardner..., weaver..., a cabinet maker... and a stone cutter... to which I would add a vigneron. In a country where, like yours, music is cultivated and practised by every class of men, I suppose there might be found persons of those trades who could perform on the French horn, clarinet or hautboy and bassoon, so that one might have a band of two French horns, two clarinets and hautboys and a bassoon without enlarging their domest (sic) expences.

This then was the cultural background to the short but most glorious period in the history of the wind ensemble. Vienna was full of music:

During the summer months, if the weather is fine, one comes almost daily serenades performed in the streets... However, these do not, as in Italy or Spain, consist simply of a singer accompanied by a guitar or mandora... here serenades are not a means for declaring one's love, for which there are a thousand more comfortable opportunities; but these serenades consist of trios, quartets, mostly from operas... played by wind instruments.

Vienna Theatre-Almanac, 1794.

The British scholar Roger Hellyer, in the 1980 New Grove, states that the term "Harmonie" in its most clearly defined sense was used only from the mid-18th century until the 1830's, and is applied to the wind bands of the European aristocracy. He says that to translate "Harmonie" as "wind band" is vague, and as "military band" is wrong. In general we take it to mean music for three or four pairs of wind written in classical style and forms.

The heyday of the Harmonie was from 1782, in Vinenna. Mozart in January had written to his father to say that Prince Lichtenstein hoped to form a Harmonie, and that he, Mozart hoped to be appointed composer. In the event the Prince did not engage Mozart and did not form his ensemble until 1789, but meanwhile on 1st April Emperor Joseph II set up his own Harmonie, the Kaiserlich-Koniglich Harmonie. The oboists were Triebensee and Wendt, both experienced composers and arrangers, the clarinets were Johann and Anton Stadler, the bassoonists were Krazner and Drobney and horns were Rupp and Eisen, all members of the Burgtheatrer opera. Thus the full Harmonie Octet came into fashion, imitated immediately in courts throughout the Hapsburg Empire. The repertoire was drawn from two sources, arrangements of popular operas, a genre which would sustain the military band repertoire for the next two hundred years, and original works.

These original works have a number of generic titles: serenade - divertimento - partita - cassation.- suite. The general shape consisted of a first movement in a rudimentary sonata form, a pair of minuet and trios framing an arioso-type slow movement, ending with a fast finale often in rondo form.

Wind Music Of Mozart

The masterpieces of the period are without doubt by Mozart. The American scholar Michael Votta divides his oeuvre into three periods. During the first, 1773-1777, he wrote a number of Divertimenti, two probably composed in Naples and scored for pairs of oboes, cor anglais, horns and bassoons, and a further series written in Salzburg for pairs of oboes, horns and bassoons. It is almost certain that a Divertimento for two flutes, five trumpets and timpani is spurious.

The three great Serenades were composed in Vienna. The Serenade in Eb K 370a was first written in 1781, for a sextet, pairs of clarinets, bassoons and horns, the Octet version followed in July 1782, perhaps re-composed for the Emperor's Harmonie. It was the sextet version which undoubtedly caused Mozart to write to his father on November 3, 1781:

At 11o'clock p.m. I received an evening serenade of two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons - and to be sure one of my own compositions... the six gentlemen who played are poor beggars, but they play well together...

The Serenade in C minor K.384a probably dates from July 1782; it is in four movements, and was later re-written as a string quintet. Traditionally the Serenade in Bb, Gran Partita K. 370a has been considered to be the first of the three, but recent research suggests that it was written late 1783 or early 1784 and probably premiered at a benefit concert for Anton Stadler on March 23rd, 1784. This is sometimes known as the Serenade for Thirteen Wind, a misnomer since the bass part is most certainly for double bass, not contra bassoon, as at times it is marked pizzicato. The additional instruments to the standard octet are a pair of basset horns, an extra pair of horns and the double-bass. The work is cast on a large-scale in seven movements; largo/allegro - minuet and two trios - adagio - minuet and two trios - romance - theme and variations - finale. New critical editions of all of the works of Mozart are now available from Bärenreiter.

Mozart's final works for wind include Divertimenti for two clarinets and bassoon, Duets for two horns, and a number of ravishing notturni for three voices and three basset horns. Research still continues apace, and the recent find in the library at Donaueschingen of parts to a wind version of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail might well be the "lost" version by Mozart himself. The Dutch scholar Bastiaan Blomhert puts up a very good case for Mozart as the arranger; certainly Wendt, Sedlak, Rosinak and Triebensee never used the wind octet with as much imagination as the unknown composer of this arrangement.

Growing Repertoire

The three Serenades of Mozart are undoubted masterpieces, but in the past half-century an enormous amount of new music has come to light. As well as the works of Haydn and Beethoven, chamber music by Hummel, Krommer, Myslivecek, Masek, Salieri , Druschetzky and many others have been published. Much of the rearly esearch into the Harmonie was carried out by Roger Hellyer for his Oxford dissertation "Harmoniemusik: Music for small wind band in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries" (1973) and by David Whitwell, while more recently Jon Gillaspie, Marshall Stonham and David Clark have completed three volumes on this repertoire.

The results of twenty years of research in the libraries of Europe have been painstakingly catalogued, checked and written about in three volumes, one a catalogue of works and their locations, a companion Thematic Catalogue, and a Wind Ensemble Sourcebook and Biographical Guide. In all, they mention some 12,000 works by over 2,000 composers, including details of hundreds of operatic arrangements. Their enthusiasm for the project is evident, and although the critical reader will find inconsistencies and lacunae, the books are essential for our knowledge and undertanding of a vast new area of performing material from the 18th and 19th centuries.

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