Review: The Horn of Eric Ruske

Here’s a brief review of The Horn of Eric Ruske, a newly-released compendium by international horn soloist Eric Ruske (cover image linked from Amazon.com) . If you read The Horn Call, you’ve probably seen this seven-disc set advertised in its pages. It’s a great set of recordings, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Mr. Ruske’s playing. Even if you already own a few of these  CDs – as I do  – it’s still a bargain to buy the entire collection. The albums included are as follows, in chronological order of their recording dates. I’ve included a short description of the contents.

  • Night Poems (Recorded 1990) Horn and piano; Important solo works as well as several miniatures for horn and piano.
  • Mozart Horn Concerti (Recorded 1993) Mr. Ruske with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras. All four concertos, as well as the Concert Rondo, K. 371 and Fragment, K. 494a. Also includes a rare recording of Ill Wind by Flanders and Swan (based on the last movement of K. 495).
  • Virtuoso Music for Horn and Piano (Recorded 2000) Horn and piano; transcriptions and original works. Particularly noteworthy is the recording of Arban’s Fantasie and Variations on the Carnival of Venice.
  • The Classic Horn (Recorded 2002) Horn and piano; transcriptions of Baroque, Classical, and Romantic era works.
  • The Romantic Horn Concerti (Recorded 2005) Mr. Ruske with the IRIS Chamber Orchestra and Michael Stern. Recordings of major concertos for horn and orchestra by Richard Strauss, Franz Strauss, and Reinhold Glière.
  • Just Me and My Horn (Recorded 2006) Unaccompanied repertoire, including several transcriptions by Mr. Ruske.
  • Music by Three (Recorded 2010) Works for violin, horn, and piano by Brahms, Dubois, and Holbrooke.

Just looking at the above information, you can see that this collection encompasses a wide variety of repertoire over a twenty year period in Mr. Ruske’s prolific career. Rather than go into detail about each album, I’ll offer a few summary comments about what you’ll hear on these discs. First, his playing is remarkably consistent, from the earliest recording to the most recent. His sound is direct, but also capable of warmth and reserve where the music requires it. The technique is impeccable, but what stands out the most to me about these recordings is the phrasing, and confidence in the musical message being conveyed. One may not always agree with the musical choices a particular player makes – this can be said about anyone – but in the case of Eric Ruske it is impossible to ignore the conviction behind them. Mr. Ruske’s playing grabs the listener and holds his attention, sometimes through exaggeration, but often through subtlety. I had the opportunity in the summer of 2001 to participate in a week long series of master classes with Mr. Ruske at the Las Vegas Music Festival. This intense period consisted of at least two two-hour long master classes each day, covering solo repertoire, etudes, chamber music, and orchestral excerpts. Though we sometimes found the schedule a bit grueling, all of the participants came away with a wealth of experiences. For the entire week, Mr. Ruske approached his teaching in the same way he approaches his playing; with boundless energy and enthusiasm!

There are dozens of great solo horn recordings out there, but relatively few boxed sets like this one. If you’re looking to expand your recording library, The Horn of Eric Ruske is highly recommended.

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