Boxwood & Brass

Discovering Harmoniemusik
Boxwood & Brass
The Arts Club, Waterloo. 18 October 2017

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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.  Continue reading

The Harmonie in Beethoven’s Vienna

The Harmonie in Beethoven’s Vienna
Boxwood & Brass
St John’s, Smith Square. 20 February 2017

The words Harmonie, or Harmoniemusik (translatable as ‘windband music’), are little known in the UK, although they are important aspects of the late Classical and early Romantic musical eras in continental Europe. With arguable roots in earlier military bands, the formation of wind instrument consorts started to grow into prominence from about 1750, and reached its zenith in the 1780s in Vienna. It became the preserve of aristocratic households, and its decline around 1830 was a symptom of the decline in aristocratic resources in post-Napoleonic Europe. Emperor Joseph II formalised the line-up of his own court Harmonie to pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns together with a 16′, usually string, bass. This was the nine-strong line-up of Boxwood & Brass for this concert, although they also perform in the various other Harmonie formats.

It is the ambition of Boxwood & Brass to bring the extensive Harmonie repertoire to a wider UK audience. To that end, they combine their performing and musical skills with an impressive academic and musicological background. Several are linked to the University of Huddersfield Centre for Performance Research and many already have, or are approaching, doctorates in music. Their recent début CD, Franz Tausch: Music for a Prussian Salon (reviewed here) featured original compositions for Harmonie. This St John’s, Smith Square concert included one original composition together with two examples of the important genre of arrangements for Harmonie. Continue reading

Boxwood & Brass: Divertimenti for Cognoscenti

Divertimenti for Cognoscenti
Boxwood & Brass
St Peter’s, Streatham. 15 September 2015

The imaginatively named group Boxwood & Brass specialise in Harmoniemusik (for wind instruments) from the two or three decades either side of 1800. This is a fascinating and, with the exception clarinetsof some Mozart examples, a relatively unknown repertoire. The Harmonie usually described an ensemble of up to fifteen players, generally with pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons, sometimes supplemented by a wide range of other instruments. With its roots in Viennese saloon and Imperial music, a parallel tradition was growing in France through military and revolutionary bands. Apparently there are some 12,000 works for the Harmonie band. Continue reading