Eric Ruske

Selected Record Reviews

On "Music by Three: Romantic Repertoire for Violin, Horn and Piano"

...I know that Ligeti's Horn Trio, titled "Hommage Brahms," has received a fair amount of attention on disc, at least twice being logically paired with Brahms's trio. I would submit to you, however, that if Josef Holbrooke's trio making its recorded debut on this disc were to become more widely known, it would eclipse not only Ligeti's work, but quite possibly it would stand only a shoulder below Brahms's trio as one of the two supreme masterpieces in the genre. Composed in 1904, it's a large-scale work written in a late romantic idiom of breathtaking beauty.
Though Holbrooke was of the same generation of English composers as Holst, Vaughan Williams, Bridge, Bax, Ireland, and others of that milieu, he was always somewhat of an outsider, even before World War I when he still enjoyed a fair degree of recognition. But after about 1925, his reputation took a nosedive, and he died in 1958, the same year as Vaughan Williams, in almost total obscurity. If this recording receives the attention I hope it does, perhaps interest in Holbrooke's music will be rekindled, for this horn trio is a real gem.
Add to this an especially warm and vibrant performance of the Brahms trio and you have a winning release. All of these artists are new to me. Chicago-born hornist Eric Ruske is a former member of both the Cleveland Orchestra and the Empire Brass Quintet. He has accumulated quite an impressive discography, including a recording for Telarc of Mozart's horn concertos with Mackerras leading the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and for Albany, a recording of Richard Strauss's horn concertos and Gliere's concerto. So shame on me for not having made Ruske's acquaintance on CD before, but I was also surprised to find none of his recordings reviewed in the Fanfare Archive. He plays with a beautifully rounded, burnished tone, perfect for the Brahms, and a secure technique that allows him to shift seamlessly between his instrument's registers.
Violinist Jennifer Frautschi has recorded the Prokofiev concertos with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony, and a disc of Stravinsky and Ravel, both reviewed by Robert Maxham in Fanfare 29: 2 and 24:1, respectively. On the current CD, she plays with luminous tone and exceptionally expressive phrasing.
A medal winner in the 1990s at both the Queen Elisabeth and Tchaikovsky competitions, pianist Stephen Prutsman has recorded Book II of Bach's WTC; a disc of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Liadov; and Barber's piano concerto and the concertos of MacDowell. Reviews of these by Rabinowitz and Fine will also be found in the Archive.
Even if you already have half-a-dozen versions of the Brahms trio in your collection, this new one can easily stand beside the best of them I've heard, which would include Tuckwell/Perlman/Ashkenazy and a recording featuring hornist David Pyatt with members of the Gould Piano Trio. In any case, not only will you get a superb Brahms trio with Ruske, Frautschi, and Prutsman, but the Holbrooke alone makes this a must-have release.
Jerry Dubins

Fanfare Magazine - July/August 2011 Issue 34:6

We are sitting rather near Ms Frautschi, so her sound is finely detailed. Ruske's bell faces to the rear, of course, so his sound is a little less direct. The piano seems to surround them. With just a bit of ambience, the overall acoustic is clear, resonant, and natural. This is a very satisfying account of the wonderful Brahms Horn Trio (1865), something any music lover should hear every now and then. Ruske's full yet not-too-dark horn sound seems ideal next to Ms Frautschi's dusky-hued violin and Prutsman's very darktoned Steinway. Balances are sublime as the artists work their way through the reasoned discourse of I, the turbulence of II, the gloom of III, and the passion and exhilaration of IV. The four-minute 'Trio Cantabile' (1903) by French composer Theodore Dubois (1837-1924) is simple and tuneful. Also tuneful but just as long as the Brahms is the 30-minute Trio (1904) by Josef Holbrooke (1878-1958). While not approaching Brahms's profundity, Holbrooke had serious thoughts and developed them capably. This is a horn trio worthy of notice. Barry Kilpatrick

American Record Guide - May/June 2011, pages 211-212

In what may be the hornists' most recorded chamber music work, I have enjoyed greatly each recording that I now have. Eric Ruske has added to that collection. This is another virtuoso performance by all performers. Exquisite ensemble playing enhances the very beautiful expressive passages and the exciting active ones. Ruske is clearly an artist of the highest level. His musicality allows him to bring out the most of the music whether lyric or technical and active. If this recording will be the first in your Brahms collection, or if it adds to the recordings you already have, it will be a treat. From the very familiar Brahms we are also treated to two world premiere trio recordings. The Dubois trio is exactly what the title tells us - a beautiful, melodic, and expressive work. Its long lyric lines give both the horn and the violin wonderful opportunities to sing. This recording should give impetus to many more performances of this fine work. As an organist and teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, Dubois, composed orchestral works and two piano trios, but his vocal works comprise the majority of his oeuvre. We hornists are fortunate that he wrote such a beautiful and charming work for us. English composer Josef Holbrooke has produced an exceptionally beautiful trio. Premiered in 1904, it deserves much wider recognition and performance. Thank you Frautschi, Prutsman, and Ruske for this superb recording. Calvin Smith

The Horn Call - Volume XLI, No.3, May 2011

On "The Classic Horn: World Premiere Transcriptions"

This is a CD filled with extraordinary performing. Not just the horn playing, but both the horn and piano. It is a wonderful collaborative effort. The ensemble between the two players is exceptionally fine and both give musical performances that are first rate. The recorded sound is rather close and this gives the listener the effect of being right next to Mr. Ruske as he performs, instead of being in a seat in the back of the recital hall. Eric Ruske’s technical prowess is already well known to most of the horn-playing world. His performances here will only expand that reputation.
All of the compositions on the recording are his transcriptions from the literature of the violin (Schubert and Mozart), the ‘cello (Mendelssohn), the flute (Bach), and the clarinet (Schumann). As Mr. Ruske points out in his liner notes, each of these composers wrote for the horn in either a solo, chamber or orchestral settings but, with the exception of Schumann, they wrote for the natural horn. Wit these transcriptions, Eric Ruske has shown us what the horn literature might have been, if the valved horn had been developed and widely used during these composers’ lifetimes. However, showing what might have been and actually expanding the literature are different things.
There is a deceptive quality to Mr. Ruske’s playing – he makes things sound easy that aren’t! I suspect that only the finest horn players, with well developed musicianship and superb technical facility, will prepare these pieces to performance levels. This is likely to prevent these works form entering the mainstream of our literature. However, I hope this small concern doesn’t stop anyone who is so inclined from learning this music, practicing it, and performing it. Just be ready for some challenges. Whether you attempt a performance, enjoy this beautiful music and marvel and the virtuoso who is the transcriber and performer. Bravo Eric Ruske. C.S.

The Horn Call - Volume XXXIV, No.3, May 2004

On "The Classic Horn: World Premiere Transcriptions"

This is a CD filled with extraordinary performing. Not just the horn playing, but both the horn and piano. It is a wonderful collaborative effort. The ensemble between the two players is exceptionally fine and both give musical performances that are first rate. The recorded sound is rather close and this gives the listener the effect of being right next to Mr. Ruske as he performs, instead of being in a seat in the back of the recital hall. Eric Ruske's technical prowess is already well known to most of the horn-playing world. His performances here will only expand that reputation. All of the compositions on the recording are his transcriptions from the literature of the violin (Schubert and Mozart), the 'cello (Mendelssohn), the flute (Bach), and the clarinet (Schumann). As Mr. Ruske points out in his liner notes, each of these composers wrote for the horn in either a solo, chamber or orchestral settings but, with the exception of Schumann, they wrote for the natural horn. Wit these transcriptions, Eric Ruske has shown us what the horn literature might have been, if the valved horn had been developed and widely used during these composers' lifetimes. However, showing what might have been and actually expanding the literature are different things. There is a deceptive quality to Mr. Ruske's playing - he makes things sound easy that aren't! I suspect that only the finest horn players, with well developed musicianship and superb technical facility, will prepare these pieces to performance levels. This is likely to prevent these works form entering the mainstream of our literature. However, I hope this small concern doesn't stop anyone who is so inclined from learning this music, practicing it, and performing it. Just be ready for some challenges. Whether you attempt a performance, enjoy this beautiful music and marvel and the virtuoso who is the transcriber and performer. Bravo Eric Ruske. C.S.

On the Mozart CD…

…Eric Ruske’s approach, firmly positioned within the boundaries of balance, coherence and good taste that govern the Classical Style, enchants by virtue of its confidence, imagination and ebullient virtuosity (although one listens in vain for the poetic sound that illuminated the English super-star Dennis Brain’s Mozart). Tempos are brisk but never self-serving; Eric Ruske’s flowing pace in the Larghetto of the Third Concerto (K 447), for instance, affords a warm lyricism that is difficult to obtain at the stodgier conventional calibration, and never has the exhilaration of the hunt been captured on disk with greater authenticity –valve horn not withstanding- that Eric Ruske’s romp through the works finale…Eric Ruske’s consummate attention to details of phrasing and articulation is concerned less with clarity for clarity’s sake than with the music’s communicative potential. Interestingly, he does not always strive for crispness and separation: in tone telling episode in the Rondo of the Second, he brings out latent qualities of yearning and wistfulness through his unusual application of lyrical legato. And Mr. Mackerras astutely matches him step for step. But it is in his original cadenzas that Eric Ruske permits his impetuous free spirits their fullest expression. Although horn players tend to specialize in high or low register, he shows uncommon command of the instrument’s full compass, nonchalantly skipping between high and low extremes in the cadenza of the Third, and concocting a dazzling technical tour de force in the cadenza to the Concert Rondo (K 371).

The New York Times – 10th July 1994

On the Sierra CD…

Each of the soloists is performing a work written for him or her, so their performances can be considered authoritative…This is a keeper and comes with the highest recommendation.

Fanfare — May/June 1997

On the Yannatos CD…

The idea of a 25-minute piece for solo horn is a bit daunting, particularly when combined with dance, but this one begins far off stage and soon begins to use flutter tongue, muted sounds, and all the variety available to the instrument…Ruske plays with great accuracy and musicianship…this is interesting and full of fine playing.

American Record Guide — Nov/Dec 2000

On Night Poems...

Here is a Dreamy concert if ever there was on, designed to flood your imagination with musical moonlight. The instrument entrusted with this assignment is the horn, and the program Is made up of pieces untarnished by frequent playing – indeed, some of them have seldom been played at all.

Two Strausses are represented – Franz, whose Nocturno immediately establishes a starry atmosphere in a meditative mood, and Richard Strauss, who so often favored the horn and composed two concertos for it. His Andante heard here is a haunting, mesmerizing miniature.

There is more moonlight in Alexander Glazunov’s Reverie. Camille Saint-Saens’ Morceau de Concert is a rarity by this French composer, who can be accused of superficiality but seldom of writing a boring measure.

Four pieces by Reinhold Gliere, the conservative Soviet composer who was among the few never to fall out of favor with the regime, are typical of his work in terms of melodic invention and are immediately appealing. There’s a nocturne, and intermezzo a valse triste in typical minor mode, and a romance.

Paul Dukas tore up most of his music because it didn’t meet his own exalted standards, and many people are acquainted with his music only through “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and possibly the ballet music for “La Peri.” The Villanelle on this program, composed in 1906, is as charming as anything he ever set down. This is a relatively familiar piece. When it comes to Prosper Van Eechaute, most of us are not only unfamiliar with the intensely romantic Nachtpoema heard on this program but have perhaps never even heard of this unjustly neglected Belgian composer.

That unabashed Romantic Robert Schumann didn’t write much for the horn, but his Adagio and Allegro pours romantic musical wine, most satisfying in its bouquet, into a formal classical decanter.

The hornist who put this program together is the young American Eric Ruske. The winner of the 1986 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, Ruske made his debut at the 92nd Street Y in New York in 1987 and a year later found a welcome reception at the Kennedy Center in Washington. He became the associate principal horn player for the Cleveland Orchestra when he was only 20, and has gone on to concertize widely. After one concert, the Milwaukee Journal predicted that he would become “the world’s greatest hornist.” He would seem to be well on his way. Accompanying him is the seasoned pianist Anne Epperson, who heads the Instrumental Accompanying Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music and is a member of the faculty there.

Paul Kresh