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The Kölner Akademie

On Harmonia this week, we’ll look at a recent series of recordings by the Kölner Akademie directed by Michael Alexander Willens.

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orchestra in concert gear

Photo: Anonymous

Die Kölner Akademie (The Cologne Academy).

Of the many world-class early music ensembles that have come out of Cologne, one ensemble has quickly established itself over the past decade as something unique. The Kölner Akademie is an orchestra that performs a wide range of repertoire from the 17th through the 21st centuries on period instruments.

In 2006, the first four recordings in the Forgotten Treasures series (Ars Produktion label) were released, including the complete concertos for clarinet by Bernhard Crusell, a late 18th century Swedish-Finnish composer well known to many a a clarinetist.  American early clarinet virtuoso Eric Hoeprich joined the Kölner Akademie for the recording.

The Kölner Akademie is directed by Michael Alexander Willens, an American conductor who has an extensive musical background and has led the Akademie on a journey to explore numerous familiar and little-known works, such as those on the Forgotten Treasures series.

For the second volume in the series, the ensemble turned to the bassoon concerti of Franz Danzi, a prolific German composer from the late-classical/early-Romantic period who had a soft spot for the often neglected bassoon.  His concerto in C major featured bassoonist Jane Gower.

For the third volume, the Viennese double bass was the highlight.  David Sinclair, a Canadian double bassist working in Europe, is featured in the concerti of Hoffmeister, Pichl and Vanhal.  For those of you who think you’ve heard it all, give a listen to the first movement of Franz Anton Hoffmeister’s Concerto in Eb major.

The fourth volume in the orchestra’s Forgotten Treasures series focuses on select symphnoies and concertos by Johann Wilhelm Wilms, a German-born composer who spent most of his life in the Netherlands.

This episode’s new release is also from the Kölner Akademie: the award-winning recording of Johann Valentin Meder’s St. Matthew Passion.

Here’s a video of the Kölner Akademie performing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Grabmusik” with soprano Deborah York and bass Christian Hilz:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du9VmL1Z568

Music Heard On This Episode

Wenceslav Pichl: Concerto in D per il Violone Principale: Finale, Presto
Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 3 (ARS, 2006)
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Wenceslav Pichl: Concerto in D per il Violone Principale: Finale, Presto
Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 3 (ARS, 2006)
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album cover
Bernhard Crusell: Andante pastorale
Eric Hoeprich, clarinet, Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 1 (ARS, 2006)
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Bernhard Crusell: Rondo Allegretto
Eric Hoeprich, clarinet, Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 1 (ARS, 2006)
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Franz Danzi: Allegro no troppo
Jane Gower, Fagott, Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 2 (ARS, 2006)
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Franz Anton Hoffmeister: Allegro moderato
David Sinclair, Weiner Kontrabass, Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 3 (ARS, 2006)
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Johann Wilhelm Wilms: Menuetto
Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 4 (ARS, 2006)
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Johann Wilhelm Wilms: Rondo: Allegro
Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Forgotten Treasures, Vol. 4 (ARS, 2006)
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Johann Valentin Meder: Sinfonia
Kölner Akademie, Orchester Damals und Heute, Michael Alexander Willens, dir. — Passionoratorium nach Mattäus (Raum Klang, 2006)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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