Fine Symphonies from a Beethoven Contemporary
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you wonder what kind of symphonies Beethoven's direct contemporaries were writing, this CD should give you an idea, as well as some insight into how composers assimilated the reigning formula for the Classical symphony--namely Beethoven's, of course. Since Ries was a friend and student of Ludwig, this formula is second nature to the younger composer. So much so that the two symphonies show their Beethovenian pedigree more than do other contemporary symphonies you hear with some regularity--from Mehul, Cherubini, Voricek, et al.To me, this is all to the good. The Fifth Symphony of Ries, for example, pays such obvious tribute to Ludwig's Fifth you might wonder if Ries himself will ever emerge. But this is not, after all, Ludwig's Fifth. The rugged first movement is wonderfully dramatic without ever essaying the philosophical depths of Beethoven's minor-key symphonies. Too, the slow movement is more lightweight and lilting, along the lines of a Schubert slow movement. The unique music comes in the demonic scherzo, an emotional rollercoaster if ever there was one, bounding between the driven and the heroic and the elegiac with a heady sort of logic. The last movement is a very strong Classical finale that doesn't try for the Beethovenian heroic breakthrough of Ludwig's "Fate" Symphony.If the Third Symphony is a little less memorable, that's because we find Ries writing in the sunnier vein of Beethoven's Fourth, and Ries isn't the tunesmith, or craftsman, that Ludwig is. Still, Ries' symphony is a generous-spirited and genial work that repays repeated listening.Conductor Howard Griffiths specializes in these off-the-beaten-track symphonies of the Classical Era (check out his fine recording of the Cherubini Symphony and overtures on CPO), and he is most sympathetic to Ries, whose music sounds important in our conductor's capable hands. The Zuricher Kammerorchester is a nimble yet powerful little body of players that is with Griffiths every step of the way. A very good recording rounds out this attractive package."
email@example.com | Los Angeles | 07/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A composer around the time of Beethoven this is very easy music to listen to. I hope that CPO does the rest of this composer's symphonies. A forgotten composer who needs to be revived."