Romantic Wind Serenades
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Serenade in D minor Op. 44 [23:40]
Overture (Notturno) in B flat [9:21]
Wilhelm Emilius HARTMANN (1836-1898)
Serenade in B flat Op. 43 [19:53]
Consortium Classicum
rec. March 1991, February/July 1992, Fürstliche Reitbahn, Bad Arolsen
The Serenade for ten wind instruments, cello and double bass (to give it its full title) by Dvořák is one of the most delightful works in a repertoire of wind music better known to players and through recordings than in live performance. Actually it is played here with only nine instruments, the optional and frankly inessential contrabassoon being omitted. Its four admirably concise movements are contrasted in character and colour but all show the composer at his freshest in invention. The third movement, the longest by some way, is related in character to Mozart’s Gran Partita K361 while the others have a more folksy feel. The whole work is a delight from its initial March to the repeat of that March at the end. Here it is played most expertly and recorded in an admirably clear but not too close acoustic. Perhaps at times there may be some want of spontaneity in the occasional variations of tempo, but this is to carp when overall the performance is so idiomatic. The music’s infectious character is certainly conveyed most convincingly.
Mendelssohn’s early Overture is usually heard in versions for a larger wind band or for full orchestra. These put it into the key of C major. Here we have the original version of 1824 in B flat major for only ten instruments. As heard in this form, where it is in the company of only seven woodwind and two horns, the solitary trumpet makes a much bigger effect than is the case when a large wind-band is employed. Its entries towards the end of the slow first section become much more dramatic, and indeed the work as a whole gains much in clarity and musical interest from being heard in this reduced form. For me this is the highlight of the disc - I do not think I exaggerate if I say that it is worth having the disc for this alone.
The remaining work was wholly new to me. The composer is more often known as Emil Hartmann. He was the son of the slightly better known composer Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann who was in turn the father-in-law of Niels Gade. Like the Dvořák it is an admirably concise work in four movements with a character somewhat reminiscent of Schumann but with a freshness all of its own. It completes a programme of thoroughly enjoyable music, expertly played and clearly recorded. Although there would have been room for much more music on the disc when the quality of what is included is taken into account it is hard to feel any deprivation.
John Sheppard 
A programme of thoroughly enjoyable music.