MOZART Amadeus, ‘Harmoniemusik’ from Le nozze di Figaro for wind octet

Harmoniemusik – music for wind ensemble – was something that delighted Mozart, both as a composer (producing what are perhaps the finest serenades for woodwind ever written) and as someone who was willingly entertained by the arrangements that were often made of favourite numbers from operas of the day. Mozart himself alludes to this in a delightful way with the musical entertainment during the banquet in Act Two of Don Giovanni when a wind band plays tunes from operas by Soler, Sarti and also the aria ‘Non più andrai’ from Mozart’s own Nozze di Figaro.

Contemporary wind arrangements of Mozart’s music proliferated, including extracts from Figaro, Don Giovanni and Die Entführung aus dem Serail, while a selection of Harmonie arrangements from Die Zauberflöte was advertised in the Wiener Zeitung in January 1792. All provide delightful music for entertainment and sometimes include interesting clues about performance practice (giving an oboist, for example, an ornamented vocal line that included decorations as performed by singers but not included in the printed score of the opera itself). The identity of early arrangers is sometimes hard to determine, though the oboist Johann Wendt was particularly important as chief arranger for the Harmonie established by Emperor Joseph II in 1782. The best Harmonie arrangements, by Wendt and others, remain a charming way to experience operatic music in a new guise.

© Nigel Simeone


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