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Franz Xavier SÜßMAYR (1766-1803)
Der Spiegel von Arkadien
Consortium Classicum (Gernot Schmalfuß (oboe); Minkyu Yoon (oboe); Dieter Klocker  (clarinet); Johannes Pieper (clarinet); Jan Schroeder (horn); Johannes Therodor Wiernes (horn); Helman Jung (bassoon); Jun-Won Lee (bassoon); Michiniori Bunya (double-bass))
rec. 20-22 April 2005, Fuerstliche Reitbahn, Bad Arolsen, Germany
MUSKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 301-1380-2 [62:26]


For the general public today, little is known about Franz Süßmayr. He composed various works that were quite popular in his time, the most popular of which being the opera The Mirror of Arcadia here presented in wind ensemble format. 
 
At the time the work was composed, wind ensembles were all the rage. In order to present one’s work to best advantage as well as to offer it to the widest-likely public hearing a wind ensemble arrangement was de rigueur. Often, such arrangements would run concurrently with the release of the work in its original orchestration or instrumentation.  The equivalent would be, perhaps, to the later phenomenon of arranging everything for piano in the late 19th and early 20th centuries so that the general public could enjoy and play the pieces at home. This isn’t the only subsequent incarnation of this opera — the liner notes indicate that it was also arranged for string quartet and piano, with sections also laid out for duos and trios. 
 
With this performance, instead of the grand stage, or, subsequently, the living room or parlour, the focus seems to be on the beer hall or central-square gazebo.  Süßmayr’s opera, is here arranged for wind ensemble by Johann Nepomuk Wendt who did similar service for the Mozart operas. It is quite enjoyably performed on this disc by Consortium Classicum.
 
The disc opens with a certain curtain-raiser.  With a flourish and a brief meditative moment, the Consortium Classicum are off with the rollicking opening Sinfonia, which, with its woodland calls and moments of birdsong, fits the wind ensemble quite well.  The following introduction to Act 1 is a lovely pastoral piece — the rendition here gives one cause to ask to hear the original orchestration.
 
Speaking of original orchestration, one disadvantage of this recording is that it gives little musical clue as to the scope of the original opera on which this music is based.  Overall, the music is quite pleasant, though without text little intimation is given as to the story.  The liner notes are quite helpful regarding general plot details and influences - Mozart and Hummel figure greatly - but offer not as much information as one would hope to explain the presence of Hummel’s compositions in the middle of Süßmayr’s opera transcription.  Several of Hummel’s pieces are featured here, including a rondeau, a song “O mein Ungluck ist ohne Grenzen”,  and a piece from Hummel’s own “Hellena and Paris”. In the initial listenings, the Hummel pieces stand out easily as the most accessible tunes of the first half of the disc, but Süßmayr has quite a bit that is enjoyable too.  The majority of the music makes little pretence to profundity, but focuses instead on entertainment and enjoyment, which it achieves handily.
 
The recording quality is all one would expect from MDG, with a wonderful balance between clarity, closeness, warmth, and ambience. 
 
David Blomenberg
 

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