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Recordings to celebrate the world of the oboe

the art of Han de Vries CC2004

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Han de Vries CD cover
A box of 18 CDs: Han de Vries CD cover

Han de Vries, cartoon, 1986

(Click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips)

Bach: Concerto for violin & oboe, BWV 1060 (D minor version)
with Jaap van Zweden (violin) and the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra
Allegro - Adagio - Allegro

Mozart: Concerto in C, KV314
with the Prague Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Anton Kerjes
Allegro - Adagio - Allegro

Kalliwoda: Concertino, Op 110
with the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Anton Kerjes
Allegro con fuoco - Romanze (Adagio) - Vivace

Telemann: Concerto in C minor
with Alma Musica Amsterdam, Bob van Asperen
Adagio - Allegro - Adagio - Allegro

Louis Andriessen: Anachronie II (1969)
with the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Howard Williams

Total CD time 71:09

The CD booklet contains an interview with Han de Vries (printed in English, French and German), in which he talks about
all the works on the CD. There are photos of him throughout his career, and of his extensive instrument collection.

Jeremy Polmear talks to Han de Vries about two of the concertos on the CD:

JP: Am I right in thinking that this recording has not been issued commercially before?
H de V: Yes, it was commissioned by a major Dutch bank - the Verenigde Spaarbank - for its employees. This bank is a good sponsor of the arts as well as sport, and I am glad that one of its products is coming out into the wider world.
JP: And you had no conductor; how did you work out the interpretation?
H de V: The Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra is made up of the best players in the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and when I played with that orchestra Jaap van Zweden the violin soloist was the leader, and they are wonderful musicians who have worked with Harnoncourt, with Chailly. So the way to approach this music was very clear to us.
JP: By 1986 when you made this recording, you had played Baroque oboe for many years, but here you are playing Baroque music on the modern oboe. Were you influenced by baroque practices?
H de V: Yes of course, and I've been playing Baroque instruments since I was 28. But to play in the Baroque style on the modern oboe, with little or no vibrato, would sound cold and unfeeling. I also have a loyalty to my teachers, to the style of the Concertgebouw, to the musicians I admire, and to the other players. I don't want to be an island of 'I am right'. I want to be somebody who communicates with other musicians, and to the ears of the audience; if I have the joy of being surrounded by very good musicians then I feel I am at my best.

ANDRIESSEN, ANACHRONIE II ('furniture music'):
JP: Let me start by asking you not about the music, but about the words. There seems to be what sounds like railway announcements at the beginning, at the end, and a bit in the middle of this concerto, and as a non Dutch speaker I must ask you - what is the gentleman saying, and does it matter?
H de V: It doesn't matter. In the score there is written a part for Radio. So it can start witrh a weather forecast, or anything. And then the music is a tapestry of quotations, and crazy humouristic, or agressive moments. It starts like Michel Legrand. Then we get a quasi Vivaldi oboe concerto, then an incredible crazy cadenza that ends with the soloist becoming totally insane. Then comes a sort of funeral march of drunken horns. This piece comes from 1969 where all music was quoting others, with bits of Stravinsky and everything mixed upside-down; it is a reaction against so-called 'beautiful music'. Andriessen said to use no vibrato. Sometimes I couldn't resist it, because I thought 'this is too much, too long, too ugly'.
JP: Did you commission the piece?
H de V: I asked him to write an oboe concerto, but the ideas are all his; and he never asked me whether what he had written was possible or impossible to play. In the cadenza he wanted a sort of shawm sound - he actually said 'like a bagpipe' - and I must say it should have been much more agressive and ugly, but there I felt I had to fight for my oboe, and not destroy the ears of my listeners.
JP: But I couldn't help noticing when you were listening to it, the part that amused you most of all was the bit in the cadenza where you honk on low and high notes. Why is that so much fun to hear?
H de V: Yes, because that's the utmost ugly playing, it's leaving behind everything that is beautiful on an oboe - as if a drunken man picks it up and tries to play it. And I laughed because I had to give up all the beauty I always worked for in my life. © 2002 Han de Vries and Jeremy Polmear

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Press Comment
"The doyen of Dutch oboists, Han de Vries, is heard to great advantage in familiar concertos by Bach and Mozart, a lively Weber-like Concertino by the Bohemian Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda, Telemann's remarkable C minor Concerto played on a Baroque instrument, and Louis Andriessen's 1969 Anachronie II, in which pastiche 'wallpaper music' is attacked by eruptions of ultra-modernism." Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine

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photo: Eddy Posthuma de Boer Han de Vries is the leading exponent of the Dutch School of oboe playing, which encourages a colourful, personal approach. He studied the oboe with Jaap Stotijn in the Hague and in Amsterdam with Haakon Stotijn; he won many prizes including the Prix d'Excellence. At twenty-two he was appointed teacher at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, and he also became principal oboist of the renowned Concertgebouw Orchestra.

After seven years Han de Vries left the orchestra to devote himself entirely to solo playing and chamber music. Besides playing the modern oboe, he has explored the possibilities of the baroque oboe. Alongside his busy schedule as a performer including many concert tours, Han de Vries has managed to find time to build a vast collection of old instruments.

A man of wide musical sympathies, he is keen to extend the contemporary repertoire of the oboe, and among the composers who have written works especially for him are Louis Andriessen, Willem Breuker, Morton Feldman, Bruno Maderna and Peter Schat.

His many recordings have won him important prizes, including two Edison awards.

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