Austrian Emperor Joseph II was certainly not the only one – nearly every self-respecting noble family had a “Harmoniemusik” in the eighteenth century. By this is meant a wind ensemble which played for the entertainment of company. The term also refers to the music itself: catchy tunes that are pleasing to the ear and create a cheerful atmosphere. In this concert, the Winds of the Berliner Philharmoniker revive the old “Harmoniemusik” tradition. Their programme takes the audience to the musical metropolis of Vienna which was the capital of this kind of music at the time of Emperor Joseph II. In Vienna, Franz Vinzenz Krommer from Kamenice (near Jihlava in the Czech Republic) was one of the most successful composers of the genre. In his works, as his Partita for Wind Octet in C major shows, he succeeds in finding a balance between artistic aspiration and music which appeals to everyone.
The same is also true of the “Harmoniemusik” composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was just three years older. His Serenade for Winds in E-flat major is reminiscent of opera buffa in its musical gesture. The cantabile Adagio, for example, already anticipates the cavatine of the Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. The Partita for Wind Octet in B is the presumptive original version of Mozart’s most famous “Harmoniemusik”: the Gran Partita K. 361. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Wind Octet in E flat Major op. 103 is – despite the high opus number – an early work. When the composer wrote it, he was still in the service of the Bonn Hofkapelle of Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria. Like his brother the Austrian Emperor, the Elector was a great lover of Harmoniemusik and Beethoven’s first patron. He promoted the talented young composer to the best of his ability and arranged for his first stay in Vienna.