November 2004

Dream of the Orient
Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio-Overture; Joseph Marin Kraus: Ballet from "Soliman II"; Franz Xaver Süssmayr: "Sinfonia turchesca" in C, plus music by Gluck, Giray, and traditional Turkish compositions
Concerto Köln; Werner Ehrhardt, director; Saraband; Vladimir Ivanoff, director.
Archiv 474 992
Released: 2004

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Europeans in the 15th and 16th centuries always feared that the vast Ottoman Empire would spill from Turkey and engage them in a bloody war. After the Siege of Vienna was lifted in 1683 and the threat was nullified, westerners began to crave and idolize what they had feared. The influence of Turkish music became the rage, its elements, and particularly its percussion instruments, incorporated into compositions by such well-known composers as Mozart.

The music directors of the chamber orchestra Concerto Köln and the chamber ensemble Saraband have had the delightful idea of placing these Turkish-influenced compositions into a concert where they are played off against original Turkish music of the period. The imaginative program skillfully alternates the similar yet different types of music, and the energetic and exceptionally skilled musicians of the two ensembles play all of it to near perfection. The Mozart overture has seldom sparkled so brightly, and the colorful Süssmayr piece is a real find.

The multichannel program opens with East and West apart, as a cello line is answered in the rear channels by the Turkish kemânçe I-Rûmî, a bowed three-string instrument. The musicians of Saraband are allowed to roam a bit after that, especially the nez player, while the European orchestra holds forth in the front three channels. There is lots of ambiance in this recording, perhaps a little too much at times. It tends to obscure detail when all the instruments are playing at the same time. But the percussion in the Mozart makes a clean and joyful noise, as it does in other compositions, and the overall sound is quite satisfying.