This album would raise anew the vexing
question of repertoire reduplication,
were it not so good as immediately to
dispel all such concerns.
First of all, the hornist,
Eric Ruske, like any other fine instrumentalist,
produces a distinctive timbre. We may
not hear hornists frequently enough
to pick up on their easily distinguishable
"sounds" as we can with pianists and
violinists; even so, every player's
sound is different. Most players seem
to favor either a tone quality that
is round and occasionally diffuse, or
a secure one with an insistent, steely
focus. This hornist gives us both, sheathing
a clear, laser-like brightness in velvet
- after the performance. This quality
lingers in the ear and the mind ...
for the right reasons.
Ruske's command of
the instrument is, of course, a factor
in producing that distinctive tone quality.
K. 447 offers such breathtaking details
as the immaculate trills in K.447 (track
6, 5.03 and 5.18), and the precision
landing in the cadenza's upward arpeggios
- he plays all his own cadenzas, by
the way. These details and the assured
placement of notes in wide leaps bespeak
real virtuoso capacities. But that technique
isn't all just for show. It also allows
Ruske the control to shape cantabile
lines via subtle gradations of dynamics,
without sacrificing the clarity and
focus provided by his consistently semi-detached
articulations; meanwhile, his bracing
6/8 finales go with rollicking good
humor. In short, this is sterling playing:
Ruske gives the eminent Barry Tuckwell
(EMI) a run for his money, and completely
outclasses such formidable competitors
as Alan Civil (for a number of labels),
Michael Thompson (Tring), and Mason
Sir Charles Mackerras
draws stylish and knowing orchestral
support from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
The winds shine clearly through the
lightweight sonority, while the violins'
long-limbed melodic phrasing "over the
barlines" makes for a fresh, youthful
effect. Overall, I'd say the orchestra
rather outpoints the Prague Chamber
Orchestra, with which Sir Charles recorded
the Mozart symphonies.
Flanders and Swann's
Ill Wind, adapted from K. 495's
finale, is comic patter on a par with
the Campbell's Soup song, the Periodic
Table, Barbra Streisand's Minute
Waltz, and other such delights.
Richard Suart's deft, precise delivery
brings out its droll humour, and the
orchestra plays as tidily for him as
it does for Ruske in the real thing.
The engineers have
placed the horn front and center, and
it reproduces with impressive bronzen
depth within a vibrant ambience. The
forward perspective does throw off the
balance momentarily at 1.55 of track
6, where the violins' soft answering
phrase doesn't immediately register.
The box and booklet, oddly, don't "number"
the concerti, offering only the Köchel
numbers, though this is of course sufficient
to identify them.