Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 01: Bernhard Crusell: Clarinet Concertos - Hoeprich/Willens
Ars Produktion ARS 38 016
Classical - Orchestral
Bernhard Crusell: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1-3 Opp. 1, 5 & 11
Eric Hoeprich (clarinet)
Michael Alexander Willens (conductor)
Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 27, 2015
The main characters are:
Bernard Crusell: Talented composer of Finish/Swedish descent;
Eric Hoeprich: one of the world's leading exponents of the historical clarinet, founding member of the Orchestra of the 18th century, teaches at the Paris Conservatoire, Indiana University’s Early Music Institute, and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague;
Michael Willens: Julliard School of Music where he studied conducting with John Nelson, Founder and Music Director Kölner Akademie;
Die Kölner Akademie: Unique ensemble based in Cologne, playing on historical and modern instruments;
Clarinet: By Eric Hoeprich after Crusell’s Heinrich Grenser clarinet.
After listening, comparing and researching for hours on end, until ‘Geist und Seele wird verwirret’ (Spirit and Soul become confused, BWV 35), for another review, I needed a break and what better can I do than have some pleasure time with Michael Willens and his band.
When I was much younger my parents taught me that all classical music is serious music. I know now that nothing is farther from the truth. During the so called Classical Period much has been written for ‘happiness’ rather than trying to culturally ‘disturb’ audiences. Obvious: Composers needed the proceeds of their brainchild for a decent living. This led to a vast reservoir of popular music. And, as it generally goes with ‘pop’: it comes, it’s consumed and disappears. A lot didn’t live very long; some survived or had to be rediscovered.
The three concerti on this disk are kind of ‘in between’. Bernard Crusell is not an unknown, many of his compositions having been recorded over the past decades, notably his clarinet concerti. However, music directors and concert managements usually prefer to schedule Mozart or Weber for the purpose of filling up the Hall. ‘Names’ are for public in general of overriding importance. Thus concert goers didn’t and still don’t get much chance to familiarize with Crusell.
We owe it to Willens (ARS Produktion and, not to forget, modern media development) that now not only confirmed music lovers, but also the younger generation can enjoy Crusell and, more important, in its original setting. And I stress: enjoy, because these are marvelous concerti, and I can’t resist playing them over and over again. The booklet giving ample information, suffice it to say that they are well constructed, wonderfully melodious, with charmingly lyrical, pre-romantic slow movements and with a fairly sizable dose of clarinet virtuosity in the outer movements. This is pleasure time at its best!
And all that is furthermore needed for complete perfection: an expert period clarinet soloist, a full complement band of competent musicians (7/5/3/3/2 strings, 1 flute, 2 each of oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets, plus timpani, all on period instruments) and last but not least a chef who inspires and holds the lot harmoniously together. It’s all there, and I mustn’t forget to include ARS Produktion for its first rate multi-channel recording.
I did, of course, compare with Fröst/Gothenburg SO/Kamu, to come to the conclusion that both are incomparable. Two different worlds: Fröst is ‘now’, faultless, well-oiled with sophisticated, well rounded off orchestral support, whereas Hoeprich is ‘then’, with small ‘instruments d’époque’ forces, sounding straightforward, excitingly ‘unadorned’, impeccably played and with so very, very much presence.
For me, these treasures need no longer be forgotten. Warmly recommended.
Blangy le Château, Normandy, France
Copyright © 2015 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net