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Han de Vries - The Radio Recordings
Han de Vries (oboe) with accompanists
See track-listing at end of review for details
rec. 1970-2002
OBOE CLASSICS CC2024 [9 CDs + 2 DVDs, 11:00:00]

Han de Vries was born in The Hague in 1941 and became a pupil successively of Jaap and then Haakon Stotijn, a famous dynasty of oboists. After Haakon Stotijn’s death in 1964, de Vries replaced him as principal oboe of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, a position he held for seven years. Thereafter he balanced a prestigious solo career with membership of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. He played much modern music, as well as venturing into the past and playing baroque and classical oboes. He was soon seen as embodying the very best features of the Dutch School, a hybrid Franco-German one with an emphasis on a very personal, musical sound rather than any flaunting of virtuosity.
This lavish and extensive nine-CD box set is augmented by two DVDs. It displays a wide variety of music with an array of accompanying instrumentalists and conductors. The vast majority of performances derive from Dutch radio broadcasts though some - and I’ll note them where appropriate - come from commercial sources.

The first CD is devoted to JS and CPE Bach. There is the Concerto BWV 1053, live in 1991, a work that he had already recorded in the studio in 1966 and 1979. This traversal, conducted by Jan Willem, is leaner and sprucer than those earlier readings. De Vries and Elly Ameling had made Bach cantata recordings together before this 1985 tape of Cantata No.84 Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, but it's always a delight to hear her plush voice in this repertoire. In the Concerto for violin and oboe, de Vries is joined by Alberto Lysy who also directs his Camerata, possibly the reason why the orchestral pizzicati are consistently too loud. The recording is rather 'woolly'. It was taped in the Concertgebouw in 1974. CPE Bach's Concerto with John Lubbock conducting is easy-going and charming.
Disc two brings us tangier and more contemporary things. Malcolm Arnold's concerto was written for Eugene Goossens but de Vries catches its caprice, alternating promenade warmth with virtuositic panache. He's in his element in Francaix's L'Horloge de Flore where he follows these little character sketches with great deftness. Bert Esser's Concerto for two oboes sees de Vries joined by Bart Schneemann to play this tart and pungently communicative work with selfless style, not least in the lonesome calls of the central slow movement. Ibert's Symphonie Concertante with David Zinman directing (Concertgebouw, 1973) is an athletic and rather beautiful concerto grosso, excitingly and thoughtfully played by all concerned.
To combine Voormolen, Haydn, Andriessen, Penderecki and Cimarosa, as mediated by Arthur Benjamin, takes some programming but such is the content of disc 3. When Alexander Voormolen (1895-1980) wrote his 1933 Concerto for two oboes (with de Vries and Schneemann again) he certainly didn't stint on the contents of his stylistic knapsack: classical to lush ballad spirit runs through it, and attractively too. Both oboists dig in with considerable tonal allure and verve. There's a sturdy Haydn Concerto with Charles Groves conducting the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980, but the Cimarosa-Benjamin, with Lysy, comes from that same Bach concert with drab sound. Louis Andriessen's Anachronic II is cutting-edge pastiche baroquerie, hence its inclusion, whilst the brief Penderecki Capriccio is a taut and brusque piece.
Modernism is consolidated in disc four. Bruno Maderna's Oboe Concerto No.3 was written for de Vries in 1973. Written when the composer was close to death it is meditative, but timbrally fascinating, and reserves outburst as though it was physical strength itself. John Carewe conducts the BBC Symphony. Maxwell Davies's Strathclyde Concerto No.1 is heard in its Dutch premiere performance, conducted by the composer. It's nearly twice as long as the Maderna but one doesn't feel that it has nearly as much to say. Splendidly played, though. Morton Feldman is represented by his Concerto of 1976, in a world premiere. It raises its voice only at the very end. Finally in this disc, a blast of romanticism in the form of Richard Strauss's 1945 Concerto: welcome lyricism.
Richard Rodney Bennett's taut, watchful 1969-70 Concerto is conducted by Andrew Parrott. Voormolen returns in the shape of his 1938 Concerto, alternately jolly and deeply melodic. He had, in fact, a huge gift for melody and for communicative spirit. The slow movement is apparently well-known in Holland through its use in TV programmes and one can easily understand it. Rudolf Escher (1912-1980) contributes a thoughtful, convincing Trio. Meanwhile Peter Schat's Thema opus for solo oboe, guitars, organ and winds is very School of 1970. He seems to have dug James Brown from the sound of it, with his two groups, or clusters, alternating in a weird pop homage.
Chamber music fills disc six. The extract from Telemann comes from a c.1970 EP. De Vries is joined by organist Albert de Klerk for Vivaldi's Sonata in C, though this shouldn't be confused with the earlier 1976 LP they'd recorded of it. Andriessen offers his Romance in F, where sentiment meets Stravinsky meets Rock ‘n’ Roll. Georges Pfeiffer's Musette has a touch of the Magyar about it but Julius Röntgen offers a bigger challenge in his typically late-Romantic sonata of 1918, where the oboist is joined by pianist Rudolf Jansen.
Nielsen's little Fantasiestücke are excitingly done, there's an unsettled-sounding work by Hans Kox from 2000 called Lied ohne Worte, in turn followed by Elliott Carter's Copland-indebted Pastoral of 1930. Disc 7 is almost all Mozart. The Quintet in C (based on the String Quintet in C minor) is live, recorded at Lockenhaus in 1986, but was released by Decca. The Adagio and Rondo sees the glass harmonica replaced by a harp played by Gerda Ockers. The Oboe Quartet is played by members of the American String Quartet. Mozart's Divertimento in B flat K439b No.1, deftly played, is followed by Beethoven's Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, in a live Utrecht performance from 1979.
Disc 8 is full of incident, something that applies to Stockhausen's Zodiac for flute, oboe and piano, recorded in 2001. These brief pieces have hypnotic qualities and are beautifully played by de Vries, flautist Abbie de Quant and Rudolf Jansen. They reveal inter alia just what a flexible, fluent and intellectually rich performer de Vries is. There are three more Maderna pieces, of which the tiny Dialodia (1971) is perhaps the most unmissable. Heinz Holliger's Mobile shows a direct Boulez influence, whilst Simon Bainbridge's Music for Mel and Nora (1979) is almost minimalist. Xenakis's 1976 Dmaathen is a study in structure and rhythm. It's a ritualistic work, sounding almost shamanistic and the theatrical multiphonics make a spectacular contribution to its success. Willy Goudswaard is the intrepid percussionist who accompanies de Vries.
There are only three pieces in the ninth disc. Pavel Haas's 1939 Suite is excellently played by the oboist and Jansen in 2001: terrific, almost flamenco kicks in the central fast movement alongside predominantly terse and uneasy writing elsewhere, though there's defiance in the evolving Chorale. A big contrast comes via Mikis Theodorakis, whose The Ballad of Mauthausen was written in 1965. This mono studio recording was made in 1968 for VARA Radio. It's written for narrator, vocalist, and instrumental support. The ethos is popular chanson, filmic and exceptionally attractive. The translation is available but only via Oboe Classics' website, not in their booklet. After the richly communicative Theodorakis, Stefan Wolpe's Sonata (de Vries with pianist Polo de Haas in 1994) sounds doughty and a bit disagreeable. Unfortunately, I've just never got Wolpe at all.
As if this wasn’t enough there are 2 DVDs. In the first we see both concertos of Willem Breuker (1944-2010). The First features the composer’s own collective band and was recorded in 1999. It’s not wholly different from a jazz orchestral piece, reminiscent in part of Eddie Sauter’s work in this area, with improvised solos from front-line horns. The tune ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’ is certainly kicked around a bit. . The Second concerto is twice the length of the First and was taped the following year. Here H.K. Gruber conducts. There are absurdist and comedia dell’arte aspects to this concerto and it will spoil the surprises to relate what they are. Let’s just say that Breuker casts his stylistic net wide: Mozart, sirens, big band, film music, duck quacks, whinnying, a lost bagpiper, and some 1950s swing. No, it’s not Bruckner. There’s also an interview section, the first with Breuker, who is droll in typical Dutch fashion, not least about ‘interaction’ between audience and musicians. De Vries is also interviewed and he is a wholly practical, down-to-earth musician with sensible thoughts on musical topics.
The bonus DVD lasts eighteen minutes. It features Maderna’s Concerto No.3 in a performance given a few months before that with the BBC Symphony and John Carewe in CD4. The tape originates from a Dutch arts programme of the time. Here the composer himself conducts, and it all makes for fascinating viewing, not least the still-handsome Maderna’s perfect control of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He smiles, cajoles, shushes and at one point, alarmingly and repeatedly, cocks an imaginary pistol at the band. Not a man, one feels, to cross.
This is a handsome tribute to Han de Vries, with an excellently annotated booklet, and with plenty to stimulate, intrigue and excite.
Jonathan Woolf  

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in F after BWV1053 [20:06]
Combattimento Consort Amsterdam/Jan Willem de Vriend
Recorded July 1991
Cantata No.84 ‘Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke’ BWV84 (1727) [14:43] 
Elly Ameling (soprano)/Ronald Hoogeveen (violin)/Omroepkoor/Radio Chamber Orchestra/Kenneth Montgomery
Recorded August 1985
Concerto in D, BWV1060 for oboe, violin and strings [14:35]
Alberto Lysy (violin)/Camerata Lysy/Alberto Lysy
Recorded May 1975
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Concerto in B flat, Wq 164 for oboe, strings and continuo (1765) [20:54]
Orchestra of St John’s, Smith Square/John Lubbock
Recorded November 1977
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Concerto for oboe and strings, Op.39 (1952) [13:17]
Radio Chamber Orchestra/David Atherton
Recorded November 1971
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
L’Horloge de Flore, for oboe and orchestra (1959) [14:58]
Radio Chamber Orchestra/Ernest Bour
Recorded March 1981
Bert Esser (1913-?)
Concerto for two oboes and orchestra (1964, version 1981) [13:48]
Bart Schneemann (oboe)/Radio Chamber Orchestra/Pierre Stoll
Recorded May 1983
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Symphonie Concertante for oboe and string orchestra (1948-49) [26:14]
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/David Zinman
Recorded December 1973
Alexander VOORMOLEN (1895-1980)
Concerto for two oboes and orchestra (1933) [20:24]
Bart Schneemann (oboe)/Radio Chamber Orchestra/Pierre Stoll
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Concerto in C, Hob VIIg:C1 (c.1790s) [21:30]
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Groves
Recorded December 1980
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Concerto in C for oboe and strings arr. Arthur Benjamin [11:11]
Camerata Lysy/Alberto Lysy
Recorded May 1975
Louis ANDRIESSEN (b.1939)
Anachronie II (1969) [13:15]
Netherlands Ballet Orchestra/Howard Williams
Recorded October 1994
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Capriccio for oboe and eleven strings 91965)
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/David Zinman
Recorded December 1971
Bruno MADERNA (1920-1973)
Concerto No.3 (1973) [13:51]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/John Carewe
Recorded October 1973
Peter Maxwell DAVIES (b.1934)
Strathclyde Concerto No.1, Op.128 (1987) [25:04]
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Peter Maxwell Davies
Recorded February 1989
Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987)
Concerto for oboe and orchestra (1976) [17:04]
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean Fournet
Recorded June 1976
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Concerto in D, for oboe and small orchestra (1945) [24:07]
Radio Chamber Orchestra/Matthias Bamert
Recorded April 1990
Richard Rodney BENNETT (1936-2012)
Concerto for oboe and string orchestra (1970) [17:09]
Radio Chamber Orchestra/Andrew Parrott
Recorded March 1986
Alexander VOORMOLEN (1895-1980)
Concerto for oboe and orchestra (1938) [25:40]
Radio Chamber Orchestra/David Porcelijn
Recorded December 1989
Rudolf ESCHER (1912-1980)
Trio d’anches Op.4 (1939 rev. 1941-42) [12:39]
George Pieterson (clarinet) and Joep Terwey (bassoon)
Recorded September 1979
Peter SCHAT (1935-2003)
Thema Op.2 (1970) [13:10]
Netherlands Wind Ensemble/Peter Schat
Recorded July 1970
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Overture - Suite No.2 (excerpts) [4:08]
Members of the Netherlands Wind Ensemble Carlo Ravelli (oboe); Joop Meijer and Iman Soeteman (horns); Joep Terweij (bassoon)
Recorded c. 1970
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sonata in C RV53 (1717) [10:00]
Louis ANDRIESSEN (b.1939)
Romance in F (1970) [5:57]
Members of the Netherlands Wind Ensemble Carlo Ravelli (oboe); Joop Meijer and Iman Soeteman (horns); Joep Terweij (bassoon)
Recorded c. 1970
Georges PFEIFFER (1835-1908)
Musette Op.47 No.1 (Trois Famillets d’Album) [2:36]
George Pieterson (clarinet) and Joep Terwey (bassoon)
Recorded September 1979
César CUI (1835-1918)
Cinq petits duos Op.56 No.4; Nocturne (1897) [2:27]
Abbie de Quant (flute); Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Recorded February 2001
Julius RONTGEN (1855-1932)
Sonata No.1 (1918) [14:33]
Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Recorded February 1978
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Fantasiestücke Op.2 FS8 (1889) [5:20]
Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Recorded February 1978
Hans KOX (b.1930)
Lied ohne Worte (2000) [4:53]
Mirel Ivancovici (cello)
Recorded February 2002
The silent cry (2001) [9:23]
Eeva Koskinen (violin); Mirel Ivancovici (cello): Frank van de Laar (piano)
Recorded February 2002
Elliott CARTER (1908-2012)
Pastoral (1940)
Boris Zarankin (piano)
Recorded August 1989
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Quintet in C, K406 (version for oboe and strings) (1782-87)
Philip Hirschhorn (violin): Vladimir Mendelssohn and Neithart Resa (violas); Julius Berger (cello)
Recorded July 1986
Adagio and Rondo in C, K617 (1791) [11:55]
Paul Verhey (flute): Jürgen Kussmaul (viola): Wouter Möller (cello): Gerda Ocjers (harp)
Recorded November 1983
Quartet in F, K370 91781) [14:22]
Members of the American String Quartet: Laurie Carney (violin): Daniel Avshalomov (viola): David Gener (cello)
Recorded January 1988
Divertimento in B flat, K439b No.1 (K.Anh.229/1) [13:22]
Jürgen Kussmaul (viola): Wouter Möller (cello)
Recorded November 1983
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (c.1795) [10:25]
George Pieterson (clarinet); Joep Terwey (bassoon)
Recorded September 1979
Karlheinz STOCKHAUSEN (1928-2007)
From Tierkreis (Zodiac) (1974-83) [13:50]
Abbie de Quant (flute): Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Recorded February 2001
Bruno MADERNA (1920-73)
Solo (1971) [4:41]
Recorded 1978
Auolia per Lothar (1965) [4:41]
Jan Goudswaard (guitar)
Recorded February 1978
Dialodia (1971) [2:27]
Koos Verheul (flute)
Recorded June 1983
Serenata per un satellite (1969) [5:35]
Jan Goudswaard (guitar): Henk Guittart (viola); Theo Olof (violin): Koos Verheul (flute)
Recorded June 1983
Heinz HOLLIGER (b.1939)
Mobile for oboe and harp (1962) [5:48]
Gerda Ockers (harp)
Recorded November 1983
Guus JANSSEN (b.1951)
Nevenzon (Phantom Sun) (2000) [10:07]
Abbie de Quant (flute); Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Recorded February 2001
Simon BAINBRIDGE (b.1952)
Music for Mel and Nora (1979) [6:44]
Polo de Haas (piano)
Recorded March 1994
Iannis XENAKIS (1922-2001)
Dmaathen (1976) [10:19]
Willy Goudswaard (percussion)
Recorded November 1979
Pavel HAAS (1899-1944)
Suite Op.17 (1939) [16:02]
Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Recorded 2001
Mikis THEODORAKIS (b.1925)
The Ballad of Mauthausen (1965) [25:37]
Liesbeth List (vocals): Ton Lutz (narrator); Trio Louis van Dijk
Recorded April 1968
Stefan WOLPE (1902-1972)
Sonata Op.31 (1937-41) [23:35]
Polo de Haas (piano)
Recorded March 1994
DVD 1.Concertos and Interviews: Willem Breuker (1944-2010) Oboe Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 [67:00]
DVD 2. Bruno Maderna; Oboe Concerto No.3 [17:55]