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Ries: Concert Overtures / Griffiths, WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln

Ries / Wdr Sinfonieorchester Koln / Griffiths
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777609-2   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ferdinand Ries
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc makes the perfect introduction to a composer who has more to offer than the fact that he was Beethoven's pal.

This is a lovely program of exciting, colorful music. Ferdinand Ries may not have been a great composer in large forms, such as symphonies and concertos, but these single-movement pieces give him the opportunity to use his imagination, and he takes full advantage. The Ouverture bardique, for example, asks for six harps (though it sounds more like two here, since there are only two individual parts), and employs a Welsh folk theme. Both The Bride of Messina and Don Carlos (plays by Schiller) are suitably dramatic, and full of fire. Ries loads his Victory March with brass and percussion, but the music's
Read more high kick is buoyant rather than pompous. The dramatic overture "L'Apparition" was Ries' final orchestral work, and it seems to foretell the Mendelssohn of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Howard Griffiths and the Cologne radio orchestra play the music with plenty of spirit. The solo woodwinds, which Ries employs with particular gusto, have lots of character. Timpani use hard sticks, and the strings offer a lean sound that mellows expressively in lyrical passages. The style, with biting, edgy brass, is obviously "period performance"-influenced, but not absurdly so. In short, the performances are stylish and sound idiomatic. As usual with German radio engineering, the sonics are very good, with excellent balances between orchestral sections. This disc makes the perfect introduction to a composer who has more to offer than the fact that he was Beethoven's pal.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

The composer Ries, born in Bonn, Germany, will not be known to many nowadays, yet he had been London-based, had an English wife and wrote a number of overtures for the Philharmonic Society to perform. The concert 'ouvertures', as such, had been invented by Romberg, Spohr and Schneider. Previously, the regular concert hall practice of starting an evening with a single movement of a symphony was felt too severe an introduction for the audiences. Consequently, lighter pieces were introduced with stronger melodic line and easier on the ear to endear the audience and encourage their focus.

Such ouvertures were not written on the frothy styles of Zampa, Poet and Peasant or Barber of Seville where fanfare and catchy repetitious melodic phrases became the norm. Those were to come later. The ouvertures here are more solid and owe more to Beethoven ( Egmont) or Weber ( Der Freischütz) in weight and style. This is not surprising for Ries had been a pupil of Beethoven.

I found the pieces soft-toned in colour yet engaging to the ear. Only once did I sit up when I heard off-beat, knocking, percussive effects: I wonder what the audiences expecting a certain legato flow thought of this acoustic intrusion? Ries's Ouverture bardique is particularly British by its inclusion of the well-known Welsh folk song, 'All through the night'. By the time Ries premièred this ouverture, versions of the folk song had been published and even used by Gay in The Beggar's Opera.

Cologne's WDR Symphony Orchestra gives a strong performance and are well coordinated under Howard Griffiths’ direction. Although English there is no record of his home town, only his RCM association. He has gained significant experience on the Continent, especially in Switzerland with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra where he has been Principal Conductor for ten years. He is clearly interested in reviving lost pieces and in this he is well-partnered with CPO who should be congratulated for their fresh approach to the repertoire they cover. The pieces are recorded in a good acoustic with well-balanced dynamics.

The well-written notes by Bert Hagels cover the Ouvertures in detail yet overlooks detail about this interesting composer. The notes are provided in German, English and French.

-- Raymond J Walker, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Die Braut von Messina: Overture, Op. 162 by Ferdinand Ries
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
2. Don Carlos Overture, Op. 94 by Ferdinand Ries
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
3. Große Festouvertuere und Siegesmarsch, Op. 172 by Ferdinand Ries
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
4. Ouverture bardique, WoO 24 by Ferdinand Ries
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
5. Ouverture dramatique "L'Apparition" WoO 61 by Ferdinand Ries
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Outstanding! August 1, 2013 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "This superb disk contains a collection of 'concert overtures' by the German composer Ferdinand Ries. The CD notes explain the rise of this musical structure in the early 19th century as a strategy used by composers to avoid using opera overtures (too tightly tied to stage drama) or fragments and movements of symphonies (destroying the integrity of the symphony). Thus, the concert overture emerged as a stand alone musical statement, even if it occasionally had some event or literary work as its initial inspiration. On the disk under consideration here, we encounter 5 excellent examples by Herr Ries, perhaps thought of during his time as Beethoven's alter ego, since their styles do have elements in common. Having said that, however, it is clear that Ries owed nothing to Beethoven in composing these briliant, melodic, and exciting overtures. They do exactly what we today expect overtures to accomplish in the concert hall: get the audience focused and in the right mood for serious, enjoyable music. Filled with imaginatively varying rythms, dynamics, and orchestral colorations, Ries' overtures end with the quintessential demand- a strong, positive, brilliant final cadence. Cologne's excellent West German Radio Symphony Orchestra makes these works glow with intensity and drive in a truly fine performance under the direction of conductor Howard Griffiths, and once again CPO's sonics are unbeatable. So go ahead and give this one a try- put yourself in the concert hall and rev up for some real fire. Highly recommended!" Report Abuse
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