Harmoniemusik

In the autumn of 1782, the Emperor Joseph II established his K.K. Harmonie, a special wind ensemble comprised of eight musicians: 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons, according to C.F. Cramer, an ensemble of “Vienna’s best wind players”, (Magasin der Musik, 1783), setting a trend that would be taken up by the nobility in Vienna and environs, and later all over Europe. These numerous Harmonie ensembles needed music to play, and it is difficult to say what came first, the establishment of such ensembles or the desire to hear arrangements of popular operas and symphonies outside the lavish settings of the opera house and concert hall. It is clear that the function of the Harmonie was to provide a divertissement, much like the radio or compact disc player today. In the 18th century, the Harmonie made it possible to enjoy one's favourite music at any time.
Mozart proved to be among the first composers to write in the genre, having completed the serenade described in the letter above some 6 months before the Emperor established his K.K. Harmonie. Exactly what Mozart meant by the word Nachtmusique cannot be known for certain, but unquestionably it conjures up an atmosphere of serenity: a candle-lit evening, relaxed atmosphere, with plenty of time on our hands to listen to and enjoy the myriad colours and subtle nuances a Harmonie ensemble can create.
The ensemble has played in the many of the most important concert halls and festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival, Musikfest Bremen, Utrecht Early Music Festival, Lufthansa Baroque (London), Perth Festival, Holland Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, Mozart Festival Saou, and toured four times in the US and twice in Australia. Their performances in Wigmore Hall, the Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, St. John’s Smith Square, Théâtre des Abbesses & Musée Grévin (Paris), Jordan Hall (Boston) include just a few of the venues.

 

 

This must have been the Serenade in Eb, KV 375, a sextet Mozart explains he composed so the Emperor’s Chamberlain, von Strack, might hear an example of his music, during a party at the home of the sister of the court painter where von Strack was to be present. In order to be certain to make a good impression, Mozart writes, “I wrote it rather carefully”. The serenade’s première, the same musicians performed it at two other venues, and at 11 o’clock that night serenaded Mozart, presumably to express their appreciation and admiration.

The name of the ensemble, Nachtmusique,
is taken from a letter written by Mozart
to his father in October, 1781, describing
how late one evening he was serenaded by

“…a Nachtmusique for 2 clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons of my own composition. Just as I was getting ready for bed, they surprised me in the most pleasant fashion with the first Eb chord.”