Ries was born 18 November
1784 in Bonn. His father Franz Anton
Ries had been a violin prodigy and was
Beethoven’s violin teacher in Bonn.
Ferdinand Ries studied piano with Beethoven
from 1802 to 1805, studied cello with
Romberg, and composition with Albrechtsburger.
Ries paid for his lessons by copying
scores for Beethoven, who once joked
that "Ries copied me too much."
When Ries was ready to look for a job,
Beethoven helped him with recommendations.
German born British
impresario J. P. Salomon had been a
teacher of the elder Ries, and Salomon
invited son Ferdinand to London for
a successful tour in 1813. Ries performed
his own works as well as Beethoven’s
with the Philharmonic Society (He did
not "start" the Society as
some report), thereby increasing the
popularity of Beethoven in England.
In 1814 he married an English woman
then retired to Germany. Ferdinand Ries
died in 1838, but his father Franz Anton
lived until 1846 and attended the festival
at the dedication of the Beethoven statue
in Bonn in 1845.
Why should the producer
feel the need to explain why he used
high definition surround sound to record
music from the classical repertoire?
A live sounding orchestra is always
more urgently compelling than a canned
one, and here we have live sound with
clear bass and smooth midrange. If the
orchestra sounds so good the music can
only sound the better for it. There
seems to be a widespread misconception
that the composers of the classical
period were not aware of orchestral
sound, but we must remind ourselves
that Berlioz, Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov
could only have built on a solid foundation
they received from the great classical
era composers. "Orchestration"
began long before Vivaldi or Mozart,
perhaps even before Monteverdi. The
sound of a skilled and well rehearsed
classical orchestra — and this is certainly
that, even though it may be missing,
quite literally, bells and whistles
— is a beautiful sound and it deserves
as much as any other to be accurately
Ries has his share
of greatness even though at their best
moments these symphonies convincingly
remind us of Beethoven, Mendelssohn
and even Schubert. At the beginning,
one might be tempted to call the Seventh
Symphony in particular "Mendelsson’s
6th." And then, in a few moments,
one would say (along with the critics
of Ries’ time), no, it’s "Beethoven’s
Tenth," or perhaps more precisely
Beethoven’s 6½ or 8½. As in Beethoven’s
Sixth, there is a sense of drama, of
a story unfolding. Near the end of the
first movement there arises a buoyant
Schubertian rhythm which leads us to
a typical Beethoven cadence. The scherzo
is a most original movement, resembling
ballet music, with an intriguing rhythmic
design Beethoven at his best could not
have equalled. In the "Eighth"
Symphony, written before the Seventh,
the two inner movements are again very
graceful with surprising Beethoven cadences,
showing how Beethoven might have written
ballet music if he’d had dance lessons
at an early age. The last movement could
have been from Beethoven’s Symphony
#1½, but with a fugue and a very exciting
Both Mendelssohn and
Beethoven sit up in their graves and
cheer any time their works achieve performance
and recording as good as this.
In place of the usual
gaudy banners, the only way to tell
this is an SACD is the very small ikon
visible at the hinge and on the disk,
and the rounded corners on the jewelbox.
There is, for instance, no mention on
the spine. Otherwise it is CPO’s usual
packaging, which for the Ries series
features nostalgic 19th century landscapes.