Late in the 18th century in Austria, the Harmonie-ensemble was the vehicle for disseminating the music of major operas, symphonies, and similar works to a wider audience under in more informal situations. Arrangements of theater music were frequently transcribed for the eight wind players of the Harmonie: two oboes, two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons. An area for soprano and orchestra was played, for example, on an oboe accompanied by the best of the wind instruments in the ensemble. The woodwind arrangements were popular as background music for garden parties, banquets, hunting, and military occasions.
Several of Mozart’s operas were thus transcribed by various arrangers and the Harmoniemusik of The Abduction from the Seraglio was thought for years to be one of them. Musicological research by the conductor on this recording, Bastiaan Blomhert, has recently established that the arrangement was actually done by Mozart himself. Inaccuracies from the original music in some details are felt to have been due to Mozart having sent his original manuscript of the opera to his father and his having to quickly reconstruct the arrangement from memory.
The 16 sections of the work following the overture are identified with the titles of the various arias heard in the opera. Some are under two minutes length and one of the longest is an adagio recitativo at seven and one-half minutes. If one is not that familiar with the opera itself, the music can be heard as more superb divertimento or concertante music by the Master. The players contribute a lively and precise interpretation, and the acoustics of Henry Wood Hall in London are well-captured in 5.0 surround.
– John Sunier