Octophoros (Paul Dombrecht) – Music For Harmonie And Janissary Band (1990)

MCFrontCover1First of all, I had to inform myself, because the terms “Harmonie” and “Janissary Music” didn’t mean anything to me.

The complex relationship between the wind instruments (Harmonie music) and the Viennese symphony in the early 19th century

Ah! If we had only two clarinets too! You cannot imagine the splendid effect of a symphony with flutes, hautboys, and clarinets.” (Mozart, letter of 3 December 1778). This famous quote, rich in meaning, demonstrates the desire of many composers to use in the orchestra the new technical and expressive possibilities of wind instruments. It is surely no coincidence that the emergences of symphonism and great orchestras during the 19th century go hand to hand with the history of the wind repertoire and the musical instrument-building. But what was the relationship between the winds instruments and the symphony? Were they closely and necessarily related? While there is simple question, the answers are not always obvious.

To understand the importance of wind instruments in the symphonic repertoire, one must first appreciate the historical background of the wind music in Vienna. The 19th century was one of innovation and change in the development and manufacture of musical instruments. Numerous treaties and literatures about the winds also trained a whole generation of new composers and musicians. Next, some interactions between the wind instruments and the repertoire will be surveyed. Selected scores will be analyse to examine this topic more closely. Finally, the function and symbolism of wind instruments will be treated, which often remains an unexpected aspect. Its influence has resulted in the significant changes in the musical creation and the musical performance during the 19th century. (taken from facbook)

Janissary music, also called Turkish music, in a narrow sense, the music of the Turkish military establishment, particularly of the Janissaries, an elite corps of royal bodyguards (disbanded 1826); in a broad sense, a particular repertory of European music the military aspect of which derives from conscious imitation of the music of the Janissaries.

Characteristic of Janissary music is its use of a great variety of drums and bells and the combination of bass drum, triangle, and cymbals. Janissary music probably appeared in Europe for the first time in 1720, when it was adopted by the army of the Polish ruler Augustus II. The novel clangour of its colourful instruments led to their wide use throughout Europe, where they became an integral part of the thrilling military spectacle. Throughout the 18th century they were occasionally used in opera scores—for example, Christoph Gluck’s Le Recontre imprévue (1764; “The Unexpected Encounter”) and W.A. Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782) – because of their exotic colour.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, compositions in naive imitation of the Turkish military style enjoyed a certain short-lived vogue. Well-known examples of the “alla turca” genre are the final movement of Joseph Haydn’s “Military” Symphony No. 100 in G Major (1794); the final movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A Major, K 331; the “Turkish March” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s incidental music to The Ruins of Athens; and the tenor solo, “Froh, wie Seine Sonnen fliegen” (“Joyful, as Flies the Sun”), from the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor. So great was the popularity of the Turkish style that many pianos and harpsichords of the time were provided with a Janissary stop, which produced a percussive accompaniment of indefinite pitch. It is perhaps a manifestation of the same phenomenon that the pianist Daniel Steibelt (1765–1823) often played recitals to the accompaniment of a tambourine played by his wife. (britannica.com)

Here is a fine example of those – nowadays not so well known – sounds of the 18th century:

Throughout the Renaissance, and even into the Enlightenment, there were a number of skirmishes and a few instances of out and out war between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. The defeat of Ottoman forces in 1683 set the stage for the slow decline of the Empire, although it did not officially dissolve until 1923. Among the most successful infantry units in the Ottoman army were the Janissaries, who also maintained bands that marched along with the corps. Noisy and loud, the sound of Janissary Bands originally struck terror into the hearts of the Viennese and Hungarians who had suffered under the periodic Ottoman sieges of their cities and lands. However, Janissary bands eventually made an impression in several ways; the European-style military band came about in the eighteenth century by way of a direct response, and captured Janissary percussion instruments were adopted into European music-making. Mahmud II abolished the Janissaries in 1826; modern Janissary bands that perform in Turkey are a purely twentieth century phenomenon. Unfortunately, so far as is known historic Janissary bands did not write down their music, and what remains are traces of such music that can be found in European compositions, mostly dating from the late eighteenth century; there was sort of a fad for pseudo-Turkish music in Europe at the time. Mozart’s “Turkish March” from the Piano Sonata No. 11 in A, K. 311, was perhaps the most famous example of this, both then and henceforward; some pianos were fitted with a Janissary Pedal that banged a strip of copper against the lower strings of the soundboard. Alongside the evolution of European military bands came the Harmonie, a wind band suitable for light entertainment and mostly used for outdoor occasions, usually numbering eight to nine instruments. This Accent release, Harmonie und Janitscharenmusik by Octophoros under Paul Dombrecht, contains three works from between 1785 and 1816 that address different aspects of both kinds of ensembles.

The Parthia in F by Bohemian composer Antonín Rösler (aka, Antonio Rosetti), is included to illustrate the Harmonie and contains some typical horn signatures associated with the hunt; the horn parts are particularly tough and are played here on Courtois Frères, natural horns manufactured in the 1820s. The most boisterous, and in many ways most successful, work on this disc is the Notturno in C, Op. 34, by Louis Spohr; it is expressly composed for Harmonie und Janitscharenmusik, hence providing the disc’s title. Spohr’s Notturno is immediate, exciting, and a good deal more substantive musically than such a popularly oriented piece needs to be. Beethoven’s familiar Wellington’s Victory is heard in one of its eight historical alternative versions, this one for “Harmonie and Turkish music”; Beethoven approved, but probably did not prepare, this arrangement. Wellington’s Victory is certainly one of Beethoven’s most maligned works; however, Octophoros’ recording of this arrangement is respectful, engaging, and makes a bit more musical sense of the work than in the standard orchestral version, which in itself is not original. Those who routinely refer to Wellington’s Victory as “a piece of crap” should refer to this recording as it might well be the best case made for this work. Accent’s Harmonie und Janitscharenmusik is a fun listen and sheds considerable light on this earliest of “East meets West” musical genres, the result of political friction between Europe and Asia Minor. (TiVo)

These recordings were made by the wind ensemble “Octophoros”, founded by Paul Dombrecht:

Paul Dombrecht (* 1948 in Oostende) is a Belgian oboist and conductor of historical performance practice.

Paul Dombrecht, son of the composer and organist Stefaan Dombrecht (1920-2007), came into contact with music at an early age. In 1989 he founded the baroque orchestra and choir “Il Fondamento”, of which he is conductor and artistic director. He is also the founder of the wind ensembles “Octophoros” and “Paul Dombrecht Consort”.

He is a virtuoso on the baroque oboe – here he is considered one of the early pioneers – as well as on the modern oboe. He is at home in the entire repertoire for his instrument, from the end of the 17th century to the 20th century.

He has recorded his extensive discography for the Seon, Harmonia mundi, Astrée, Opus 111, Accent Records, Vanguard Records and Fuga Libera labels.

Paul Dombrecht was professor of baroque and modern oboe at the Dutch-speaking department of the Brussels Conservatoire until 2013. At the end of 2015 it became known that he would like to concentrate primarily on conducting his ensemble.

I have attached the booklet etc. for more information on the European CD version.

Recorded in November 1988 at the Concert Hall of the Belgian Radio
(BRTN Radio 3) in Brussels.

The European front + backcover:

Octophoros conducted by Paul Dombrecht


Antonio Rosetti: Parthia In F (1785):
01. Grave – Allegro Molto 6.01
02. Andante Scherzante 5.23
03. Menuet Fresco Ma Allegretto – Trio 3.14
04. Allegro Finale A La Chasse 4.02

Louis Spohr: Notturno Für Harmonie Und Janitscharenmusik In C-Major Op. 34:
05. Marcia – Moderato 3.38
06. Menuetto – Allegro 5.11
07. Andante Con Variazioni 10.03
08. Polacca 3.32
09. Adagio 5.04
10. Finale – Vivace 4.22

Ludwig van Beethoven: Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht Bey Vittoria Op. 91 Eingerichtet für vollständige türkische Musik:
11. Erster Theil: Die Schlacht 8.10
12. Zweyte Abtheilung: Sieges Sinfonie 6.19