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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Barbiere di Siviglia (transcribed for wind by Wenzel Sedlak) [65:51]
Ensemble Italiano di Fiati/Paolo Pollastri
rec. January 1997, Montevarchi Arezzo
TACTUS TB791807 [65:51]

Harmoniemusik, that is, music for a group of wind instruments, was popular at both outdoor and indoor social events in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. If you are fortunate enough to encounter a military or brass band concert in a park or elsewhere today you can see immediately why that should be the case. Wenzel Sedlak was one of many arrangers for this medium, and on the evidence of this disc amongst the most skilled. The instruments used in this instance consist of pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets, together with a single double bass.

You may think that if you have one or more recordings of the opera in its original version you would not want to hear an arrangement which left out the human voice, the main feature of the opera. The sheer ebullience and stylishness of the result is however sufficient reason to do so. Clearly the players on this disc know the original work and phrase and articulate with suavity and good humour. There is fortunately no attempt at producing a uniformity of tone, instead the individuality of the various instruments is made use of to give character to the music. It is not difficult to imagine this group playing at some outside event and being able by sheer musicianship to force passers-by to listen rather than to chatter on.

The items chosen give a reasonably good impression of the opera as a whole and in addition two interlopers are included. The first is an untitled Aria in two sections, and the second a short theme and variations dedicated to the soprano Angelica Catalani. The booklet notes attribute both to Giovanni Pacini. They make an interesting addition to the genuine Rossini on the rest of the disc.

I have listened to many discs of harmoniemusik but this is certainly one of the best. There is a mixture of zest, wit and finesse in the playing which I found very appealing, and which fortunately is well recorded and presented.
 
John Sheppard