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: