Michael Collins further entrenches his place among the first rank of clarinettists with this rather heavenly recording of Mozart Serenades. He leads the London Winds with great sensitivity and, when called for, virtuosic flair. A class act. A classy disc. EDITOR'S CHOICE --Gramophone - JAN 2007
Mozart wrote a huge amount of what can best be described as entertainment" music: music that was not intended to be listened seriously in a concert room, theatre or church, but as an agreeable background to eating, drinking and conversation on celebratory or social occasions, often in the open air. Most of it dates from the earlier part of his career, while he was based in his native city of Salzburg and in the service of its Archbishop, rather than during his years as a freelance musician in Vienna (from 1781until his death in 1791), and it falls into three main categories: music for orchestra, music for chamber groups of about half-a-dozen players, and music for wind ensemble (Harmonie-Musik) Harmonie-Musik, played by wind instruments alone, was practised with great skill in Vienna at the time"-thus Johann Friedrich Reichardt s account of a visit to the capital city of the Dual Monarchy in 1783, contained in his autobiography. Reichardt emphasizes that the Imperial band that he had the pleasure of hearing in the small ballroom of the Hofburg offered "great enjoyment and delectation. Atmosphere, the performance itself - everything was pure and harmonious: several movements by Mozart were also wonderfully played". The "kaiserliche Musik - the Imperial band that Reichardt refers to, did not last long. Emperor Joseph II had created a wind octet in 1782,which was to provide musical entertainment at court and was also responsible for dignified background music on public occasions. The aristocracy soon followed the Emperor's example, and in the briefest space of time Vienna could boast numerous wind ensembles, some permanent and others that met at short notice, consisting of pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns, sometimes even cor anglais. Of course, The kaiserliche Musik was not the first wind band to be established in Vienna: such ensembles had already been in existence for over 200 years, although in earlier times brass instruments, as well as cornets, pommers, crumhorns etc., were preferred. In late 18th century Vienna, though, the term Harmonie was used to denote an ensemble consisting of variable woodwind instruments, normally one of each kind, with horns to amplify the sound. The actual instrumentation of Harmonie Musik, in other words, had altered, but its function remained pretty much the same: the musicians played banqueting music, serenades, participated in official renderings of tribute and other festivities, marked the end of the University semester with a so-called Finalmusik,or played music whose title betrayed the time of day it was performed: a serenade or Nachtmusik.