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Ferdinand RIES (1784-1837)
Grand Septet in E flat major for piano, clarinet, two horns, violin, cello and double bass, Op. 25 (1808) [33:18]
Grand Octet in A flat minor for piano, violin, viola, clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and double bass Op. 128 (1816) [22:03]
Linos Ensemble
Recorded at the Sendesaal des BR, November, 2002. DDD
CPO 999 937-2 [55:23]

The German CPO label specialises in rare repertoire and this release of chamber music from the Bonn-born composer Ferdinand Ries certainly fits that bill. And itís not the first time CPO have championed Ries. Thereís almost a dozen releases featuring works from his prolific output.

A talented pianist, Ferdinand Ries was a pupil of Beethoven for three or so years and the influence of the great composer is amply evident in his scores. It is quite natural that Ries should imitate his mentor. However, no matter how impressive the endeavour it is no surprise that the pupil fails to achieve the inspiration and imagination of his great master.

Ries composed his Grand Septet in 1808, during a time of great despair and frightening insecurity in Paris where he was living at that time. The four movement work was probably written with the intention of allowing the composer to improve his own concert performance skills in a chamber work. With war raging throughout Europe, there would have been little in the way of orchestral resource for a piano concerto, so programming a chamber piece was a more practical proposition.

The lively and tasteful opening movement of the Grand Septet, marked adagio molto, is noteworthy for the plentiful use of arpeggios in the piano part. The highly gifted Linos Ensemble provide a fine interpretation that is bright and summery. The players display their commendable musicianship in the contrasting demands of the mournful second movement funeral march and the vivacious scherzo. The ensemble give a charming and jaunty account of the imaginative and highly melodic closing movement.

The Grand Octet was composed whilst Ries was living in London in 1816. At this time Ries was gaining considerable recognition as a composer, pianist and piano teacher and had become rather a celebrity in some European circles. The Grand Octet was composed for the Philharmonic Society with the intention that Ries would play the solo part to showcase his virtuoso skills to the fashionable London concert audience. At that time it was common for chamber works to be presented in the context of a symphony concert.

The three movement Grand Octet is highly appealing with an extremely virtuosic role for the piano. The piece commences heroically like a piano concerto. The splendid Linos provide perceptive and intelligent playing in this forceful and rather grand allegro. The players transmit their affection in the generally relaxed and gentle atmosphere of the central movement andantino. The cheerful and sunny mood continues in the closing movement with the Linos performing with considerable and compelling personality.

It is hard to resist this high quality playing so aptly blending infectious sparkle and joyous spontaneity. The pianist Konstanze Eickhorst has an impressive lightness of touch and produces a beautiful tone throughout.

CPO are to be congratulated on this well presented and admirably recorded release. These colourful chamber works certainly deserve to be better known. This disc will delight those who like to explore the lesser-known music of the late classical period. Highly recommended.

Michael Cookson



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