Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries didn’t quite manage nine symphonies
– he wrote eight – but he did outstrip hs friend and mentor when
it came to piano concertos (nine in all). Colin Clarke welcomed
volume in Naxos’s ongoing series and Tim Perry wrote glowingly
of the second;
not surprisingly, I had high hopes for the third.
Yes, such expectations
do have a nasty habit of ending in disappointment, but
when the signs are as auspicious as this.... The Royal Liverpool
band certainly needs no introduction; nor does conductor Uwe
Grodd, who made such a good impression as the flautist and leader
in Vanhal’s Flute Quartets (Naxos 8.570234). The Austrian
pianist Christopher Hinterhuber also looks promising; he’s certainly
had some illustrious teachers, Lazar Berman and Murray Perahia
Ries’s seventh concerto,
written in London in 1823, is supposed to mark his farewell
to the city, although the autograph score bears no such title.
In any event it’s an effervescent work whose grand opening might
tempt one to comparisons with Beethoven and Mozart. It’s clearly
of that ilk but the music has an identity all of its own. This
is writing of astonishing fluency and drive, qualities that
Hinterhuber demonstrates from the outset. Arguably the orchestra
sounds a little woolly here – it firms up nicely later on –
but the piano remains warm and clear throughout.
But that’s not all;
Hinterhuber finds plenty of sparkle and wit as well, while always
maintaining a sense of classical proportion and scale. And just
listen to that lovely passage that appears briefly at 12:47,
before the more ebullient mood returns. The orchestra respond
to the music’s gentle rhythms with playing of great poise, but
it’s in the Larghetto that they and the soloist establish a
remarkable rapport. Those drowsy string figures at the start
are beautifully articulated, as is Hinterhuber’s gentle reply,
and one may be forgiven for thinking of the Andante to Mozart’s
K.467 at times. This is lovely, twilight music, a perfect prelude
to the sun-drenched Allegro that follows.
One senses in this
concerto an air of certainty and general wellbeing that spills
over into the ‘Rule Britannia’ variations. Written in 1817 the
piece has a wonderful lyricism that really plays to Hinterhuber’s
interpretive strengths; he shades and points the familiar phrases
with great care, reinventing ‘that tune’ with consummate skill.
And what should one make of that passage at 9:42, which sounds
remarkably like a snatch of ‘ragged time’? All-in-all a refreshing
piece, winningly played.
However, it’s the
Introduction et Variations Brillantes that really astonishes
and delights. Based on the English folk-song ‘Soldier, soldier
will you marry me?’ this work has orchestral weight and drama
aplenty; more than that it’s an excellent vehicle for Hinterhuber,
whose aerated playing and fine rhythmic control remind me so
much of that other player/performer, Gottschalk. Not as complex
a piece as the earlier variations, perhaps, but delightful nonetheless.
An admirable collection,
made all the more desirable by the pianism of Christopher Hinterhuber.
It’s been a while since I’ve heard playing of such consistent
quality, of such lightness and character. That said, the real
heroes are Ries himself – this music demands to be more widely
heard – and Naxos, whose ongoing cycles and series have restored
so many neglected composers to the catalogue.
eloquently played and warmly recorded. Need I say more?