Ries: Piano Quartet in F minor, Op. 13; Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 17

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COMPOSERS: Ries
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Piano Quartet in F minor, Op. 13; Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 17
PERFORMER: Mendelssohn Trio Berlin; Daniel Raiskin (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 885-2
Beethoven reportedly remarked of his friend and one-time pupil Ferdinand Ries that ‘he imitates me too much’. True, there are distant echoes of the Archduke Trio in the E flat Piano Quartet. But Ries was no mere epigone. Both these quartets confirm him as a fertile, likeable composer, temperamentally far more easygoing than his master, but a gifted craftsman with an appealing vein of graceful and plangent melody. Ries’s elegant, unhurried style, in fact, suggests Mozart and Mendelssohn more than Beethoven, with the emphasis on lyrical flow rather than strenuous motivic development. Both finales are especially delightful, the F minor opening with a haunting, Slavonic-flavoured tune, the E flat foreshadowing Schubert at his most insouciantly Viennese. The augmented Mendelssohn Trio Berlin does this with a nice lilt and witty touches of timing.

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Elsewhere the players balance the textures sensitively and phrase with finesse and imagination, whether in the agitated pathos of the F minor’s opening movement (though they slightly underplay the series of accelerandos towards the end), or the melodically expansive first movement of the E flat, where the pianist handles the glittering, quasi-concerto writing with panache. The recording is vividly immediate. With such a slender repertoire of worthwhile piano quartets, these attractive works thoroughly deserve their rescue from oblivion. Richard Wigmore