« Timo Andres and Yevgeny Kutik at the Phillips Collection | Main | PostClassical Ensemble at Gaston Hall »

Eric Ruske at the Library of Congress

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • December 13, 2015

It’s not often that you hear a French horn recital dedicated to one of the Roman gods. But the two-faced Janus (who looks to both the future and the past) turned out to be an apt inspiration for hornist Eric Ruske, whose recital at the Library of Congress on Friday explored the ancient and almost primal sound of the instrument — by focusing on works from the 20th century.

Eric RuskeAccompanied by pianist Gloria Chien, Ruske opened with Paul Hindemith’s “Sonata for Alto Horn and Piano.” There’s a brooding, nostalgic beauty running through this 1943 work, and Ruske and Chien played it with great sensitivity. But its most unusual feature — a spoken dialogue between the performers, spelling out the “yearning, melancholy longing” that the horn evokes — seemed a bit ham-handed, spoiling the very effect it was intended to enhance.

Just as nostalgic but infinitely more subtle was Gyorgi Ligeti’s “Trio,” from 1982. Ligeti called the piece a homage to Brahms, and it’s often paired (as it was at this recital) with Brahms’s seminal “Trio in E-flat major” from 1865. But it’s no mere exercise in neo-Romanticism. Written in a distinctive musical language Ligeti could only call “non-atonal,” the trio is an affecting and strikingly evocative work, weaving the tenderness of the opening Andante movement with the lurching brutality of the “Alla Marcia” and the tragic eloquence of the closing “Lamento.” Ruske, with Chien and violinist Jennifer Frautschi, turned in a memorable performance.

Vincent Persichetti’s 1972 “Parable VIII for solo horn, op. 120” is not only an engaging soliloquy, but it’s also a fine display piece for the palette of effects the horn is capable of, and Ruske turned in a virtuosic performance. But the real high point of the evening came in the closing work, the Brahms Trio, Op. 40. The sense of wistful nostalgia — tangible throughout the evening — was almost overpowering, especially in the sweeping Adagio, and Ruske turned in a glowing account. But it was violinist Frautschi (who is married to Ruske) who led the work — and maybe even stole the show with a commanding, incisive and absolutely riveting performance.


Posted on Monday, December 14, 2015 at 04:39PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.