Monday, July 28, 2014

Armonia Ensemble Excels with Strauss Sonatinas

Richard Strauss: Wind Sonatinas
Armonia Ensemble
Berlin Classics

Wind music from one of the greatest orchestrators of all time played by the wind players of one of the greatest orchestras of all time. How could the results be anything less than satisfying?

Towards the end of his life, Richard Strauss ceded his role as an innovator and began writing works that unabashedly embraced the past -- which turned out to be just as innovative in their way. The 1943 Sonatina for 16 wind instruments was written during Strauss' recovery from influenza, hence the subtitle "From an Invalid's Workshop."

Strauss embraces a Mozartian ideal in this work, creating a composition of clarity and balance. He revisited the form the following year. The second wind sonatina "Happy workshop" is full of energy and good spirits.

Although  written only for winds, Strauss' orchestration genius dazzles the ear with imaginative instrumental combinations throughout these two sonatinas.

The Armonia Ensemble is basically the Gewandaus Orchestra of Leipzig's wind players. And that's a plus. Because they make these works sound orchestral. Wind ensembles can sometimes sound a little wanting, but not with the Armonia. This ensemble doesn't need strings to give it a rich, full sound. Attacks are clean, the blend is seamless, and the playing is inspired. A perfect match of music and musicians.

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