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Ferdinand RIES (17841838)
Piano Quartet in F minor, Op. 13
Piano Quartet in E flat major, Op. 17
Daniel Raiskin, viola
Mendelssohn Trio Berlin:
Stephan Picard, violin
Ramon Jaffé, cello
Andreas Frölich, piano
Recorded at Immanuelkirche, Köln-Rondorf, Germany, March 2002
CPO 999 885 [51:51]


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 and Reicha.

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.

Don Satz

See also review by Paul Shoemaker

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