RIES Piano Concerto in A, “Farewell Concert for England.” Grand Variations on “Rule Britannia.” Introduction et Variations brillantes • Christopher Hinterhuber (pn); Uwe Grodd, cond; Royal Liverpool PO • NAXOS 8.570440 (66:02)
Ferdinand Ries has been receiving lots of attention on record and in these pages of late. Fanfare’s own Susan Kagan has been working her way through the composer’s pianoRead more sonatas for Naxos, and this is the label’s third volume of his concerted works for piano and orchestra, numbering eight concertos and two sets of variations, the latter of which are included on the present disc. My reaction to the sonatas in a 32:3 review—not to Susan’s playing of them—was lukewarm, leading me to conclude that while “good, solid musical ideas aplenty fly by, one senses that something more significant would be made of them by a composer of a more gifted muse; but in Ries’s hands tuition never quite seems to achieve fruition.”
Ries’s chamber works, with which I am admittedly more familiar, and these works for piano and orchestra, however, tell a rather different story. Perhaps the mother of Ries’s invention was the necessity of mass appeal. Writing to accommodate the tastes of the less musically sophisticated middle-class audiences that were increasingly finding the means to attend public concerts required a different approach. I hate the term “dumbing-down,” but we see it even in Beethoven, whose solo piano sonatas and string quartets, which were aimed at a smaller, more musically cultivated and elite audience, were more experimental and listener challenging than his concertos and symphonies, although here, too, he pushed the envelope. Likewise, Ries’s concerted works are immediately engaging, melodically and harmonically fluent, and filled with wonderfully imaginative and memorable turns of phrase.
The grand orchestral tuttis clearly take Beethoven as their model, but the piano-writing is something else. In the A-Minor Concerto there is an exquisite prefiguring of Chopin and Mendelssohn, with its arabesques and filigree anchoring and sustaining the pivotal notes that constitute the melodic arc. This is gorgeous stuff that you will never tire of listening to. All three works on this disc date from Ries’s London period, the concerto—the seventh in order of publication and obvious from its title—was written in London in 1823 and marks the end of the composer’s period in England. The Introduction and Variations brillantes bears a higher opus number than the concerto only because it wasn’t published until later. This and the Grand Variations on “Rule Britannia” show Ries to be a thorough master of the variations style and technique.
At present, there is little to no competition on CD in this repertoire, so Christopher Hinterhuber pretty much has the field to himself—all the more reason then to rejoice at his lively and beautifully turned performances. Uwe Grodd and the Royal Liverpool band accompany and complement him admirably. If you add to the equation over an hour’s worth of really enjoyable music, excellent playing, an outstanding recording, and Naxos’s budget price, you have a gold star winner.
Ferdinand Ries in Loving and Caring HandsNovember 20, 2012By D. Stewart (Flagstaff, AZ)See All My Reviews"I cannot remember so eagerly awaiting releases, such as these, since waiting for Rudolf Serkin releases in the 50-80's. This Vol 3 did not disappoint. It, like the other Vols in this wonderful series, is just plain magnificent. All of Ries's piano and orchestral compositions are present within these 5 Vols. Ries's music is a sheer delight with hints of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Chopin. The orchestral writing is both energetic and at times contemplative with much attention to the horns, woodwinds, and tympani. But it is the piano writing that captures most of the attention, and I cannot imagine a pianist that plays it any better, or with such feeling and devotion, than the pianist on this 5 Vol Series, Christopher Hinterhuber. Once you have heard Vol 1(2005) you will be hooked on the performances, recording, and music. One used to have to wait for future Vols with enthusiasm -- and at times impatience. Fortunately all 5 Vols are now ready for you to enjoy. Though different Orchestras are involved in Vols 1, 2, 3 and 4 all are sympathetically and energetically conducted by Uwe Grodd and magnificently recorded, with the piano in just the right balance. You can also clearly hear all of the orchestral parts, and Ries makes them worth the listen. The pianist is in an almost constant, and I am sure quite difficult, spotlight and given a workout, but Hinterhuber makes it all sound natural and easy. All involved in this series deserve a Grammy. Listen to these performances at any time, but if you are having a bad day any one of these Vols will quickly get you in a more receptive and pleasant mood. For starters and the curious, Vol 5(2012) contains the first published concerto and the last, which makes for an interesting comparison, but there is no doubt that these were all written by Ferdinand Ries. Hurry. You will not be disappointed. These 5 Vols are all instant 5 star winners"Report Abuse