Notes and Editorial Reviews
All works are performed on a single Steinway model D 124 piano.
Sonatas for Two Pianos,
opp. 47 and 160.
Susan Kagan, Vassily Primakov (pn)
NAXOS 8.573063 (55:39)
Here is the sixth and final volume in the Naxos series of Ferdinand Ries’s piano sonatas, this one standing alone in offering the only works he composed as duets for two pianos. The entire series has proven fascinating in that
it exemplifies how a composer need not be of the very highest rank in order to command attention. Indeed, Ries was enough of an artist to attract no less a musician than Beethoven, whose influence can occasionally be felt in the music featured here. Each of the three works has three movements, the Sonatina op. 6 totaling a mere 7:46, op. 47 (now tagged a “Sonata”) runs to 13:56, and a comparatively large-scaled op. 160 lasting 33:36. Indeed, its first movement alone is two and a half minutes longer than the three movements of op. 47 combined. According to Susan Kagan’s informative liner notes, it is the longest of Ries’a piano sonatas.
Hearing this release—each of its three works superbly performed—provides a two-fold impact. For one thing, it offers an overview of Ries’s growth as a composer. It also reminds us that a composer need not be a Beethoven or a Schubert to create arresting works. On the contrary, Ries’s op. 160 suggests how one may scale lower heights with music that still warrants attention and provides pleasure. Throughout the three pieces the performances are stylish, with tempos that are aptly animated while never sounding rushed and lyrical without becoming static. Indeed, the only (ever-so-slight) reservation one may have about this release rests in a slight imbalance that occasionally gives Professor Kagan sharper focus
vis à vis
the slightly more muffled tone of Primakov. It’s a minor point and may be the result of poorly placed microphones. In any event this should not interfere with the pleasure this release stimulates, especially at a moderate cost that almost makes it a giveaway.
FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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