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Ries: Piano Trio; Sextets etc

The Nash Ensemble (Hyperion)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Ries
Piano Trio; Sextets, Opp. 100 & 142; Introduction and a Russian Dance
The Nash Ensemble
Hyperion CDA68380    77:31 mins

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Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) has long been lurking in the shadows of musical history, simply thought of as Beethoven’s student, amanuensis and agent (as a director of the Philharmonic Society, he helped to secure the commission for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony). His father had been one of Beethoven’s tutors in Bonn, and he himself became one of Beethoven’s two pupils in Vienna (the other was Carl Czerny). Though seldom regarded as a composer in his own right, he was eminent both in that role and as a virtuoso pianist.

So it’s good to hear his music brilliantly performed by musicians of the Nash Ensemble. Beethoven apparently once said that Ries ‘imitates me too much’, and it’s certainly true that the C minor Piano Trio comes over as very faithful to the master’s style. But Ries seems on the whole to have been very much his own man, restlessly inventive, skilled at filigree ornamentation and at controlling tension and release, and at creating dramatic atmosphere.

The Grand Sextet is a splendidly heroic work, with its virtuoso pianism enthusiastically delivered here by Simon Crawford-Phillips. Its Andante has artless charm, being a set of variations on the Irish song ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ which Beethoven himself twice arranged, and it includes a short but mysterious cadenza which seems to come out of the blue, and go back into it. The Introduction and a Russian Dance for piano and cello (excellent Adrian Brendel) was aimed at the amateur market, but the intriguing G minor Sextet harks back to Mozart in its sunny conviviality. All these works should be in the mainstream chamber repertoire.

Michael Church

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