Schubert sonatas

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Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Gioacchino ROSSINI (1685 - 1757) Overtures: L’Italiana in Algeri, Der verlorene Akkord, La Gazza Ladra, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L’inganno felice, La Scala di Seta, Otello, Tancredi, La Cenerentola arranged by Vaclav SEDLAK (1776 - 1851) and Guillaume LEGRAND (1770 - 1845)
Consortium Classicum
Rec. 2003.


We have the Augustinian Monastery in Altbrünn to thank for half of this programme. From 1816 Father Cyrill Franz Napp insisted that all new applicants to the monastery be accepted or rejected on the basis of their musical skills and the needs of the Monastery’s wind ensemble. The ensemble performed as dinner entertainment for the abbot and guests of honour, on anniversaries and memorial days, as well as presenting serenades for the residents of the town. Opera transcriptions formed the mainstay until the 1840s. Opera was forbidden in the monastery, but music from the operas was allowed and Rossini’s operas were amongst their favourites. The arrangements were made for the monastery by local musicians, but all the ones on this disc are by Vaclav (Wenzel) Sedlak, the music director at the court of Prince Johann of Liechtenstein. Sedlak was a prominent clarinet virtuoso. He even transcribed the whole of Fidelio (probably under Beethoven’s supervision) for wind ensemble.

The remaining transcriptions on this disc are by Guillaume Legrand who was Music Director of the Military Choirs in Munich. Legrand and his two brothers went to Munich to further their musical education. Legrand started out as an oboist in the court orchestra. The Rossini transcriptions played here were composed in the period 1812-1817.

Sedlak and Legrand utilised slightly different orchestrations; Sedlak using 2 oboes and 2 clarinets whereas Legrand used 1 flute, 1 oboe and 2 clarinets. What is remarkable about the orchestrations is how intrinsically skilful they are, surely the mark of a good transcription. It is not that you don’t miss the full orchestral version, but that you accept the new version on its own terms. Only occasionally does a thinness of the texture make one miss the fullness of the strings.

Of course performing with just a wind octet (plus double bass and percussion where necessary), Consortium Classicum can give us the sort of focused, crisp, well-balanced performances that more resemble the litheness of period performance than the fullness of the romantic symphony orchestra. For me, this is a big plus. In all the pieces, the group’s playing is a joy. The bass lines are full of bounce and not too thick and heavy. The passagework is fleet and nimble with some particularly impressive flutter-tonguing from the flutes. The transcriptions of ‘La gazza ladra’ and ‘La Cenerentola’ retain Rossini’s percussion parts, which particularly add to the effect of these pieces.

My only small cavil is that the booklet is studiously vague about exactly which overture was transcribed by whom. To work this out, you have to pay attention to which ones use a flute. But there again faced with such charming music so joyously played, its better just to sit back and relax.

Robert Hugill


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