In recent years, CPO
has been the primary champion of the
music of Ferdinand Ries producing recordings
of his chamber works and symphonies.
Each release has been well received,
and this disc of Piano Quartets is perhaps
the best yet.
Ries came from a musical
family and was mentored by Beethoven.
Although their relationship was close
when in the student-master mode, it
came to a hostile end when Ries eventually
received a position that Beethoven had
wanted for himself. From that point
on, Beethoven consistently bad-mouthed
Ries and even promoted the idea that
the student was just an imitator of
the master. To his credit, Ries continued
to talk in appreciative tones of Beethoven
because of his earlier guidance.
As for the music of
Ries, it is beautifully crafted and
flows logically. Ries likes strong contrasts
and slashing rhythms with attractive
melodies that linger subsequent to listening
to his works. The two Piano Quartets
on the disc are generally upbeat in
emotional content, but Ries offers sufficient
drama and poignancy to keep his music
interesting and fresh. In terms of comparisons,
Ries is on the level of Hummel, Spohr
Although the Piano
Quartets are excellent works, my great
enthusiasm for the disc comes from the
sound quality and the performances.
The sound is simply spectacular – wonderful
clarity, definition, depth, and crispness.
Each instrument has its own sound corridor
with exceptional detail of musical lines.
Upon reflection, I consider the sound
characteristics the best I have ever
heard from a chamber music recording.
The performances are
at an equally high level. The elements
of teamwork and individuality are perfectly
balanced. Most important, the buoyancy
of the interpretations is a delight
for the senses and essential to put
the music of Ries in its best light.
With sound and performances so good,
Ries begins to sound like one of the
master composers of any century.
Chamber music enthusiasts
and those who have a warm feeling for
the transitional period between the
Classical and Romantic eras should find
the new CPO disc an absolute delight.
With excellent music and superior sound
and performances, I strongly recommend
acquisition of the recording.
See also review
by Paul Shoemaker