(click underlined composers to hear MP3 format sound clips)
This box amounts to a survey of the variety of the oboe repertoire, played by a musical virtuoso.
Here are a few music samples,
listed in alphabetical order:
some springy Bach,
energetic Richard Rodney Bennett,
electric rock with Peter Schat,
playful duetting in Voormolen
with Bart Schneeman.
The DVD includes interviews with Han de Vries and Willem Breuker talking about both Breuker Concertos, in Dutch with English subtitles.
The bonus DVD contains a performance of Bruno Maderna's Oboe Concerto no 3, conducted by the composer. Since the work has an aleatoric element, the performance is different from the one on CD 4.
Total Time 10 hours, 55 minutes
(This image is the back of the box.)
The 32-page CD booklet has an 8,000 word programme note in English with full details of each track
and an essay on the Dutch oboe school. There is also a biography, a discography and many photographs.
Introduction by the compiler of this collection, oboist and radio presenter Peter Bree:
Whenever I went through a list of anniversaries of composers and musicians for one of my radio programmes, I could not help thinking of a passage from Omar Kayyám's Rubbáiyát, which in the translation of E.H. Winfield reads:
Has passed away, yea, and my very name;
Afortime, ere we came, we were not missed.
When we are dead and gone, 't will be the same.
When the seventieth birthday of my oboe teacher Han de Vries came in sight I was determined to make sure that he would be spared such a fate. After all, he made great efforts during his long career to perform a great variety of music, among which many contemporary compositions, often written especially for him. And many of these performances have over the years been recorded by the various Dutch broadcasting companies. An ideal subject for a commemorative CD box, I thought, so that people who were not there could also participate in those exciting times and his exhilarating playing.
Using my own cassette recordings of radio broadcasts as a basis, a first choice was rapidly made, and that selection soon grew bigger even more rapidly thanks to all kinds of additions suggested by Han. Thus, little by little, a wonderful collection developed, for which the original recordings had to be searched for in every nook and cranny of the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid (the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) that preserves the Dutch audio-visual heritage. This search has not always been successful, and for some important recordings we had to rely on a few of my cassette tapes, the quality of which has been pepped up as much as possible. Most recordings in this box were made during public concerts, and this implies that nothing could be repeated; the risks an oboist has to take can sometimes be heard and felt - these are the small irregularities that give live performances that bit of extra tension that can be so very exciting. Wherever possible we have made small corrections; the masterly skills of editor Alexander Van Ingen did wonders here.
In the end we could not resist the temptation to include a few recordings that strictly speaking are not radio recordings: the Romance in F by Louis Andriessen, some movements from a Suite by Telemann, and the live recording of Mozart's Quintet
K. 406, taken from a concert in the Austrian Lockenhaus Festival of 1986.
No less than 51 recordings (22 concertos and 29 works of chamber music) have been collected from the period between 1968 and 2002. They not only give a splendid survey of the oboe repertoire but also show the versatility of the great artist that Han de Vries is. As representative of the Dutch school of oboe playing and successor of his teachers Jaap and Haakon Stotijn he was heir to the supple, clear and almost silvery oboe sound that makes his playing so expressive, personal and fascinating. From the poignant Ballad of Mauthausen by Theodorakis to the baroque music of Bach, from the subtle chamber music of Mozart to the contemporary works of Louis Andriessen and Peter Schat that were written for him: all interpretations bear the special and intriguing stamp of this virtuoso oboist.
Han de Vries is one of the world's great oboists, comparable to Heinz Holliger or Léon Goossens. He studied oboe with Jaap Stotijn and his son Haakon Stotijn. He won many prizes in his youth, including the Prix d'Excellence in 1962. He was a founder member of the Netherlands Wind Ensemble.
At the age of 22, he became principal oboist at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
and remained there for seven years, after which he focussed on chamber music and a solo career. As a soloist, Han de Vries has toured Europe, Japan, Australia, and North and South America, with a repertoire of baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary music. He has made many recordings, one of which won an Edison Award in 1973.
Many composers have dedicated music to him, including Bruno Maderna. He has a large collection of historical oboes, and has edited Baroque and other oboe repertoire.
In 1997 Han de Vries was made an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau, a Dutch chivalry order open to "everyone who has earned special merits for society".
"This is a handsome tribute to Han de Vries, with an excellently annotated booklet, and with plenty to stimulate, intrigue and excite."
Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
(Here is the detailed review of each disc.)
"I will have to restrict myself to highlights, but not before making the general comment that not one track is short of compelling...
"The quality of the recordings is even more remarkable when one realises that they are, for the most part, live. Not only are they close to technically perfect but, being unedited, they possess a high level of integrity as performances...
"In addition to being a tribute to a great musician, the set provides a remarkable purview of oboe playing and trends in composition for the oboe in the course of the last three decades of the twentieth century.
"In short: a necessity for the oboist's studio and college library." Geoffrey Burgess (co-author of the definitive book The Oboe) in the UK Double Reed News and the International The Double Reed;
click for the full (printable) review.
"At the radiant centre there is that very personal way of playing the oboe. Some music enables the listener to long for unknown and remote perspectives, worlds that nobody knows. If there is one instrument that is able to reproduce the radiance of this desire it is the oboe. And if there is a single oboist who has realized this to the full it is Han de Vries."
Thiemo Wind, De Telegraaf, Holland
"Han de Vries is a poetic musician with an intense melodiousness and a flawless, lean tone, of a melting elegance and beauty, and of such poignant power that it almost hurts."
Erik Voermans, Het Parool, Holland
"Ten hours to finally give back to the exceptional Han de Vries, jewel of the Dutch oboe school, the place he deserves in our part of the world, alongside his colleague Heinz Holliger."
Jean Cabourg, Diapason, France, which awarded the box the Diapason d'or
"Let us hope that this impressive, beautifully edited edition will inspire others... there always is a reason to open up documents of this kind to a wider audience. And if it is done in such an exemplary manner as is the case with this box, one can speak of an ideal production." Jan Jaap Kassies, Netherlands Broadcasting Music Center (MCO)
"I had expected to play both the DVDs and sample the CDs, but they are most of them so compelling that I will be listening to the whole archive... Unless you're resistive to jazz, I recommend starting with the Willem Breuker DVD, which has de Vries fitting in comfortably with two jazz combos, the Metropole Orchestra (conductor H.K.Gruber) and Breuker's own Willem Breuker Kollektief, with interviews that help you to get to know this important and versatile oboist - his instrument is a rarity in jazz circles." Peter Gramae Woolf, Musical Pointers.
"Thanks for the prompt delivery. As one of the last pupils of Jaap Stotijn I'm very happy with the box of Stotijn's famous pupil Han de Vries. I'm a little bit ashamed that such a Dutch music monument has been published in UK....."
Renée Dubois, an amateur oboist, still trying to maintain the Dutch oboe sound
[Don't worry, all the impetus for the project came from Holland; Oboe Classics was only the delivery vehicle! JP]
"It remains a feast to hear Han de Vries playing; so fantastically refined, but not too romantic. He is great! I got my first oboe lessons from the same Haakon Stotijn (as an amateur some 60 years ago; I am 80 now) and still I rather feel in my own body how Han de Vries makes the tone with a supple midriff, the first thing Haakon taught me." Nelson Spruit, Netherlands
"This is a mesmerising box-set, which has given me hours of pleasure - not only the concerto of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, but also concertos by Strauss, Arnold and Françaix, and a great variety of chamber music." Jur Zandbergen, Netherlands