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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
quality is all one would expect from MDG, with a wonderful
balance between clarity, closeness, warmth, and ambience.