Friday, August 26, 2011

Five for the Weekend -- A Wind Music Playlist

As the east coast battens down the hatches in anticipation of Hurricane Irene’s visit, it’s probably best to think about some softer winds – music for wind ensemble. Small wind ensembles were all the rage in the late 18th century. The Emperor Joseph II of Austria had a wind band to serenade him on summer evenings. Why not emulate the Emperor and enjoy some wind music? Here are five wind albums you’ll want this weekend.

Haydn and Mozart wrote some of the finest music in the genre and Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 for winds in B flat major, “Gran Partita” is the finest of its kind. Zubin Mehta conducts the winds of the Berlin Philharmonic in this sublime music.

One of Beethoven’s most delightful but lesser-known works is his Septet for strings and woodwinds in E flat major, Op. 20. Yes, it does have strings but the music is too irresistible to ignore.

Franz Schubert’s Octet in F major, D. 803 is modeled on Beethoven’s Septet and is filled with the free-flowing melodic charm that’s classic Schubert. The Berlin Philharmonic Octet’s performance is outstanding.

Not all wind music was written by Austrians and Germans. Antonin Dvorak's Serenade in D minor, Op. 44 is one of the Czech master's most warmly melodic works. Jacob Hrusa conducts the Prague Philharmonia in this marvelous performance.

The wind serenade reached its peak when Richard Strauss, who occasionally would channel Mozart (Der Rosenkavalier -- Le nozze di Figaro, get it?), wrote gorgeous wind serenades. The Serenade for 13 wind instruments in in E flat major is a charming early Strauss work.

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