Ries: Quintet in B minor, Op. 74; Grand Sextuor in C, Op. 100; Sextet in G minor, Op. 142

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WORKS: Quintet in B minor, Op. 74; Grand Sextuor in C, Op. 100; Sextet in G minor, Op. 142
PERFORMER: Ensemble Concertant Frankfurt
CATALOGUE NO: 999 622-2
Beethoven’s friend and one-time amanuensis Ferdinand Ries was one of the most celebrated pianist-composers of his day, noted for the ‘romantic wildness’ of his playing. This disc offers an attractive sampler of the chamber music he composed for his own performance during his decade in London (1814-24). Typically, all three works juxtapose glittering keyboard virtuosity with an appealing ruminative lyricism. And if Ries’s arguments tend to be discursive, with the emphasis on decoration rather than development, his music has plenty of structural surprises, and a nice line in colourful key shifts. Most memorable, for its evocative sonorities and its tenderly elegiac opening movement, is the G minor Sextet, scored for the rare (unique?) combination of harp, piano, clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass. The B minor Quintet, for the same forces as Schubert’s near-contemporary Trout Quintet, has a gravely eloquent slow movement and a catchy contredanse finale which suddenly breaks off for a forlorn siciliano, while the more showily rhetorical Grand Sextet features an ear-tickling set of variations on the hit song of the day, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. Performances are shapely and alert, with deftly despatched pyrotechnics from pianist Fritz Walther. As usual with CPO, though, the informative German note is clumsily, often nonsensically translated. Richard Wigmore