Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Ferdinand Ries, Uwe Grodd, Gävle Symphony Orchestra|
Ferdinand Ries: Piano Concerto; Swedish National Airs with Variations; etc.
Listen to Samples
Outstanding new release
William R. Roell | Baltimore, USA | 09/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The rediscovery of Ferdinand Ries & his music has been full of surprises.
His Concerto op. 55 was first recorded decades ago, but it was crudely done. I kept spinning that unhappy performance in my head, the way I wanted it to be, and wondering why the performers hadn't done better. Never mind why this was important to me, or why the concerto grabbed my attention at the time. I don't really know myself.
I am amazed what Hinterhuber, Grodd & the Gavle Symphony Orchestra have done with this music. In their hands the c sharp minor Concerto stands revealed as an outstanding piece of music.
The other two items on the disc, the Swedish National Airs with Variations, and the Introduction & Polonaise are equally good, but I have not had a chance to study them in detail. I believe the performances here are both world premieres.
Both the Swedish National Airs, and the Concerto itself, date from around 1812. The final item, the Introduction & Polonaise, dates from 1833, the last years of the composer's life. Of these final years, his wife, Harriet Mangean, is alleged to have said that Ries was writing the best music of his life (Bonn, 1784 - Frankfurt, 1838). This is certainly true of his 6th Symphony, which, if I had to judge only from what has been recorded to date, is his masterpiece. This despite the fact that Ries in his last years was severely depressed, if I am not mistaken. So I am looking forward to an extensive study of the Introduction.
Checking Mr. Hinterhuber's web site, I learn that he & Mr. Grodd recorded a third volume in this series in January, 2007, in Scotland. I am looking forward to its release.
Ries' Concerto Op. 55: A Musical Hybrid That Doesn't Quite F
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 02/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When I first heard the Ries Piano Concerto Op. 55 about a hundred years ago, on an RCA recording with Felicja Blumenthal, I was taken aback that a composer who could write music of such power was so little known. I noted the clear similarities to Beethoven's style, but thought that was a given in an age dominated by the master from Bonn. Since then, it has been possible to get to know Ries much better through recordings on cpo of his complete symphonies and some of his better chamber music. And his problem, as far as posterity is concerned, is that he does sound like the master from Bonn. Even Beethoven told Ries, a friend and pupil, that he sounded too much like him.
But there is a bigger problem with the Third Piano Concerto, whose first movement sounds vaguely like a cross between the first movements of Beethoven's Third and Fourth Concertos. The problem is that the piece is a hybrid that doesn't really work. The stentorian orchestral music is pure Beethoven (or Beethoven influence), but the writing for piano is in the brilliant but somewhat brittle style of Biedermeier composers such as Hummel and Weber. The notes to the recording suggest that if Beethoven hadn't stopped composing concerted works in the early 1800s, when he lost his hearing, perhaps he would have followed the pre-Romantic model of Hummel et al. Maybe so, but he wrote solo piano music almost till the end of his life, and it sounds like Beethoven--though stretching the limits of Classical style to the absolute breaking point that it reached in his Sonatas Nos. 29 and 32.
But back to the Ries Concerto. The second movement is an attractive example of the dreamy, proto-Romantic slow movement of concertos like those of John Field. But the last movement rondo's A section is based on a frothy little tune that bustles along like a Weber perpetuum mobile. It provides a comic-opera ending to a concerto that started out storming the heavens in typically Beethovenian fashion. Not an especially happy mix.
The other works on the recording hang together much better, it seems to me. Here, the Beethoven/Hummel axis doesn't seem quite as jarring. The Variations are very accomplished and mostly serious with some flashes of brilliance to keep things interesting. The Introduction and Polonaise is even more expertly put together, a very attractive piece with memorable melodies, fine writing for both orchestra and piano. Alas, by the time Ries composed this late work, he had fallen out of favor with the public, and it will probably be impossible to put him back in wide favor. I doubt his concerted works will return to the concert hall anytime soon, if at all.
Yet there is much to admire in the music on this disc; even the Third Concerto is powerful and pretty enough by turns to be interesting to hear on occasion, which one can do, thanks to this well-done recording by Hinterhuber and Grodd. They're both specialists in this kind of music, and Hinterhuber is a magnificent pianist by any measure, probably in the same class as the better-known Stephen Hough or Howard Shelley. Naxos provides a large-scale, imposing sound recording that matches Ries' big gestures, but Hinterhuber's piano reproduces with a little too much metallic glare, and I don't think he can take the blame for that.
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/21/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"My opinion of Ferdinand Ries's music is generally favorable, but I have to say that the music on this disc is not much to my liking, although it is played very well by Christopher Hinterhuber, piano, accompanied by the Gävle Symphony under Uwe Grodd. This is because this music seems to be intended more as a presentation of the pianist's virtuosity than as a cogent musical argument. This is particularly true of the first two pieces presented here, the 'Swedish National Airs with Variations' and the 'Introduction and Polonaise.' These remind me somewhat of the mindless productions of such piano virtuosos of the time such as Sigismund Thalberg.
The concerto is somewhat better, particularly in the lovely middle movement, which actually reminds me a bit of Chopin's first concerto. Mostly, though, the concerto's thematic material is nondescript and its working out prosaic. The same is true for the orchestration. I cannot quite overcome my feeling that this is inferior Hummel.
My suggestion is that if you like the music of Thalberg or Pixis, or love to hear pianistic fireworks with roulades of arpeggios and scalework without having to be much concerned with form or inventive harmony, this might be for you. Otherwise, my advice would be to avoid it.