Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Patrick Hanudel
American Record Guide, May 2009

The Saxonian Wind Academy is a group of principal players from the Chemnitz Robert Schumann Philharmonic. They play two long suites from Mozart’s two final operas, The Magic Flute and The Clemency of Titus; both premiered in 1791, the year he died.

Transcribed by the little known Joseph Heidenreich, The Magic Flute is 44 minutes of the best music from both acts. The 20-year-old oboist Joseph Tribensee, who played in the premiere of The Magic Flute, worked on The Clemency of Titus, which he crafted into a 28- minute work with the overture and the catchiest tunes from the first act. If the name of Tribensee is familiar to wind aficionados, it’s because he wasn’t done yet; he spent the years 1796-1809 at the court of Liechtenstein, where he made many more wind ensemble arrangements, and in 1816 he succeeded Carl Maria von Weber as the director of the Prague Opera, which gave him easy access to even more scores.

The transcriptions still work today; as in their time, they give a rich flavor of the work without the messiness and hullabaloo of the stage.

Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, May 2009

In this, their first commercial release, the Saxonian Wind Academy, with players drawn from the Chemnitz Robert Schumann Philharmonic, creates an initially positive impression with a lively Zauberflöte Overture…the Clemenza di Tito excerpts respond reasonably well to their more restrained style…

Carla Rees
MusicWeb International, April 2009

Both operas represented on this disc were written in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death. Joseph Heidenreich’s arrangement of Die Zauberflöte was completed just a few months after the opera’s first performance. This is a convincing arrangement, which is in keeping with Mozart’s writing and the style of his own wind music. Following the overture, the music takes us through the drama of the opera, with many of the main arias represented. Variety is created through the choices of instrument, with melody lines mostly split between oboe and clarinet, and the rich resonance of the ensemble as a whole providing some wonderful colours. The playing is excellent, and the intonation is particularly impressive. There is a lovely sense of unity and the players blend very well, creating an ensemble sound which is bigger than the sum of the individual parts. The melodies are well phrased and the music has a singing quality throughout.

The arrangement of La Clemenza di Tito was made by Joseph Triebensee, an oboe player who performed in the premiere of Die Zauberflöte. The recording here includes the overture and seven arias from Act I. The arrangement is once again convincing, and perhaps possesses more lightness than that of the previous work. The playing is once again excellent and this is a highly enjoyable performance.

This is an interesting disc, which documents some of the wind ensemble repertoire, as well as showing Mozart’s operatic masterpieces in a new light. In terms of the social history of music, it is fascinating to think that some people at Mozart’s time may have first heard these operas through these arrangements. The music itself works well in this format and although the operatic storyline is an interesting addition, the drama is not essential to the enjoyment of the music.

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, March 2009

This CD is a perfect delight, and a real treat for anyone who loves the sound of a wind band. It consists of excerpts from Mozart’s last two operas arranged for wind octet with occasional help from a double-bass. If this seems unusual to us then it certainly wasn’t to the Viennese of Mozart’s day. Harmoniemusik, as it was known, was a regularly used method of popularising tunes from the operatic hits of the day. Mozart himself arranged items from Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail for wind ensemble. In a letter to his father he stated that it was his intention to do it himself before anyone else had the chance of making a profit out of his work! Joseph II established a much more permanent and professional group in Vienna in the 1780s, and it was for a group like this that Mozart wrote his great wind serenades. Arrangements like this are already familiar to lovers of Mozart’s operas: think of the banquet scene from Don Giovanni where the onstage band plays arrangements from operas by Martin, Sarti and Mozart himself. The sonority in this recording is just like that and these musicians have great fun as they play these great arrangements.

The playing is fruity and characterful throughout. It’s not surprising that the opening chords of the Zauberflöte overture sound so perfect in this arrangement. What is perhaps more surprising is how good the vocal lines sound. Listen, for example, to track 2 where the voices of the three ladies blend perfectly as they are bandied around the different instruments. Each instrument takes a turn singing a verse of Papageno’s Act 1 aria, while an oboe and a clarinet duet beautifully in Bei Männern. The clarinettist takes the place of the Magic Flute in Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton, while an oboe fills in as Tamino’s voice. It all works brilliantly and while there may be times when we miss the bigger climaxes, such as the chorus that ends Act 1, this is more than made up for by the sheer good fun of the arrangements. Some of them, in addition, are strangely and surprisingly beautiful, such as O Isis und Osiris, which if anything sounds even more deeply spiritual in this arrangement.

The Tito arrangements are just as much fun, but if anything capture the drama even better, mainly because this set of numbers follow the practice of giving one voice to one instrument more often. Nowhere is this more effective than in the final scene of Act 1 as each character meets on the hill to witness the devastation as the Capitol burns and Tito is—supposedly—murdered. We feel the drama of each voice adding and building, and we even get the whispered snatches that Vittelia gives Sesto to encourage him to keep his mouth shut. The more gentle numbers, such as Annio and Sesto’s friendship duet, or Tito’s Del piu sublime soglio work just as well.

This disc brought me tremendous pleasure. Recording quality is full but not too close and the playing is of the highest order. This is a disc worthy to set alongside your favourite recordings of these operas. At Naxos super-budget price you can afford to try it and see what you think.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2009

In the bad old days before recordings and radio, arrangements such as these were very popular. Properly performed, they can be quite enjoyable and worth repeated hearing. This particular effort, however, falls short, I felt, because La Clemenza di Tito does not abound in memorable tunes (The Marriage of Figaro would have been a far better choice), and the Saxonian's relaxed approach to the music is better suited to Sunday in the Park.

Stephen Eddins, January 2009

They certainly aren't replacements for the operas, but as chamber music they are completely successful in their own right. The Saxonian Wind Academy is a model of warm tone and a mellifluous blend. The group plays with crisp precision, but also with exuberance, and in Die Zauberflöte, subtle humor. The sound is clear, clean, and nicely integrated. This CD should be of interest to fans of wind ensembles and of chamber music of the Classical era.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2008

Naxos has championed some unlikely causes, and now turns its attention to the once popular ‘Harmoniemusik’, the works written for small rustic wind ensembles that reached professional respectability during Mozart’s lifetime. He was to add some charming Serenades to their repertoire, though such groups largely relied on arrangements of music composed in another genre. The premiere of Mozart’s opera, Die Zauberflote had only just taken place when Joseph Heidenreich began work on a very free arrangement of key sections of the opera scored for pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns. At times keys were transposed and the vocal line changed in character so that it would fall within the range of one instrument. With commendable skill he retained essence of the music in his pleasing adaptation, the work extending to more than forty minutes. The extracts from La Clemenza di Tito are much shorter, and in the hands of Joseph Triebensee sound far more imaginative and persuasive. They are played by the Saxonian Wind Academy, a group drawn from the Chemnitz Robert Schumann Philharmonic Orchestra. They are an ideally balanced ensemble, who interpret the music in wind ensemble terms, selecting different tempi and dynamics to those you would hear in the opera house. At times I wish there was added urgency in Zauberflote, but I find the eight excepts from La Clemenza di Tito totally convincing. The recorded sound is realistic, and I hope we will encounter the group in original wind ensemble scores.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group