An hour of sheer delight here. Ferdinand
Ries is probably best known for his
associations with Beethoven. Here is
an opportunity to hear how he sounds
on his own two compositional feet in
two world premiere recordings.
And excellent they
are, too. Christopher Hinterhuber is
a pupil of Lazar Berman, and something
of his mentor's facility has obviously
rubbed off. Scores which are presumably
often black with semiquavers clearly
are bread and water to this pianist.
The 'Gruss an den Rhein' concerto (first
on the disc; second in the booklet notes)
was composed at Bad Godesberg. Ries
grew up in the area of the Rhine, and
something of that river's unhurried
majesty is conveyed in the first movement.
The orchestra's opening is warm and
very, very welcoming, for example. Hinterhuber
revels in the sparkling piano writing,
often very close to Chopin in its filigree.
The slow movement (Larghetto
con moto) is only five minutes long
but is a lovely Nocturne that reveals
the warmth carried by the recording.
The finale is prefaced by a cadenza;
dazzling fingerwork here. When it arrives
properly, this last movement is as jolly
as they come. To its credit, the New
Zealand orchestra manages to sound involved
throughout; no easy task surely in works
that are clearly designed as pianistic
The C major Concerto,
Op. 123 seems closer to Hummel than
Chopin, with liberal dollops of Beethoven
along the way. The first movement is
a dramatic entity, with Ries surely
trying a couple of things along the
way. The recording in this case seems
particularly well-balanced in forte,
opening out nicely. There is much fantasy
here too; only the cadenza tends towards
The long and restful
'Larghetto quasi andante' includes a
lovely clarinet solo and a dark central
section before the sparkling rondo-finale
- quite suave at times - rounds off
a most enjoyable disc. When the orchestra
opts to add a 'raw' edge, it is as if
it is nodding in the direction of the
'authentic'. A nice touch.
An excellent disc.
One of the beauties of Naxos is that
one can experiment with rare repertoire
at low cost. Here that cost is certainly