Weber, Ries

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Grand duo concertant in E flat; Variations on a Theme from Silvana
PERFORMER: Pierre-André Taillard (clarinet), Edoardo Torbianelli (fortepiano)
Ferdinand Ries was a piano pupil and protégé of Beethoven, and later the co-author of an early biography of his master. He was also a prolific composer. Beethoven is said to have grumbled that ‘he imitates me too much’; and Ries’s Clarinet Sonata, published in 1809, is indeed Beethovenian in its sharp contrasts and florid piano-writing, and in the reprises of the slow introduction of the finale later in the movement. But it has some good and original melodies, is idiomatically conceived for the clarinet as well as the piano and certainly constitutes a welcome rediscovery. It sits happily here between Weber’s two more overtly virtuosic clarinet-and-piano pieces of the following decade. This well-recorded disc has been made under the auspices of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, the venerable Swiss conservatoire for early music performers, by two of its professors. Edoardo Torbianelli plays two Graf fortepianos of the 1820s with fluency, mixing limpid upper-register figuration with some surprisingly percussive attacks. Pierre-André Taillard, on a copy of a nine-key clarinet of c1800 by Heinrich Grenser, displays a similarly wide dynamic range and impressive technical command. Anthony Burton