Boxwood & Brass
The Arts Club, Waterloo. 18 October 2017
In a dual exercise of launching their 2017/18 programmes combined with trying out a possible venue for small-scale musical events, the innovative wind-music group Boxwood & Brass held a ‘Harmoniemusik Discover Evening’ in the 1901 Arts Club (in the fascinating hinterland of Waterloo station), a former schoolmasters house now converted to an events venue in the style of a late 19th century saloon. The six members of Boxwood & Brass played music by Mozart and Beethoven, starting with their own arrangement of the opening Allegro of Mozart’s 1782 Serenade in C minor (K.388, aka Nacht Musique), the two original oboe parts redistributed amongst the pairs of clarinets, horns and bassoons of their evening’s line-up. Mozart had made his own arrangement, for string quintet. This curious work is some way from the usual style of a Serenade, being far more musically intense and written in a minor key. In the intimate space, the complexity of the writing was prominent, as was the distinctive colour of the Harmoniemusik instruments.
The central focus of the evening was Beethoven’s 1796 Wind Sextet (Opus 71). I had to leave after the first movement for another reviewing engagement. They finished with their arrangement of Mozart’s Symphony 40. The distinctive sound of the Harmoniemusik is not often heard in the UK, although wind bands were certainly not unknown, generally in military circles. It was a particularly fashionable instrumental formation in the decades around 1800 in German-speaking countries, notably in Vienna, and also had a following in France. Boxwood & Brass are dedicated to exploring the enormous wind-band repertoire and have impressed me in earlier concerts and recordings.