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Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)
Piano Concertos - Volume 2
Swedish National Airs with Variations Op.52 (1812) [15:01]
Introduction and Polonaise Op.174 (1833) [15:03]
Piano Concerto in C sharp minor Op.55 (1812-13) [30:23]
Christopher Hinterhuber (piano)
Gävle Symphony Orchestra/Uwe Grodd
rec. Gävle Concert Hall, Gävle, January 2006
NAXOS 8.557844 [60:27]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the second volume in the Naxos Ries series devoted to his Piano Concertos (see review of volume 1).  It’s proving to be a rather beguiling stroll through eclectic pathways, incomparably aided by some devoted, first class performances and recordings. As before the soloist is Christopher Hinterhuber, though this time the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has been replaced by the Gävle Symphony Orchestra. The conductor remains Uwe Grodd.
The Swedish National Airs with Variations opens with austere orchestral grandeur and then opens out into a rhapsodic dialogue between piano and accompanying, strongly subservient forces. The whole thing is attractively spun, full of rhythmic zest and alternating expressive sections – and plenty of dance rhythms. There are limited, though pregnant, opportunities for orchestral solos – and there’s a witty pay off to end the quarter of an hour variations.
A much later work is the Introduction and Polonaise. It’s altogether more genteel than the Variations in its opening Introduction before the gradual lead-in to the Polonaise. Ries uses the orchestral tuttis well here – they’re not simply Corinthian columns to support the superstructure – and the Polonaise, whilst hardly especially authentic, has a pleasurable albeit cosmopolitan profile. Not only are the tuttis accomplished but also the transitions, which could have been too paragraphical in other hands, are equally well done.
But it’s the 1812-13 C sharp minor that will invariably be the primary focus of interest. This was written at around the same time as the Swedish Variations. Opening with orchestral touches that reflect his Beethovenian lineage – especially in the brass writing – Ries manages to accumulate and dissipate tension deftly. The piano enters in media res and is offered plenty of exciting, scalar and virtuosic writing as well as a deal of toughly lyric things as well. The emergence of the lovely first movement theme over tremolo strings is an inspired piece of work. The slow movement has delicacy as well as more florid moments and the finale is packed with verve and virtuoso flourishes.
All these challenges are met square on by these forces, well recorded in Gävle Concert Hall back in January 2006. An endorsement of this second volume is easy to make, given the all round excellence of the package.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review of this volume by Tim Perry



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