Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)

Concert Overtures:-
Die Braut von Messina (The Bride of Messina) Overture op. 162 (1830) [10:05]
Overture Don Carlos op. 94 (1815) [8:44]
Große Festouvertuere und Siegesmarsch (Grand Festival Overture and Victory March) op. 172 (1832) [12:45]
Ouverture bardique WoO 24 (1816) [13:59]
Ouverture dramatique L'Apparition WoO 61 (1837) [13:37]
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Howard Griffiths
rec. Philharmonie, Köln, Germany, 18-21 November 2008. DDD
CPO 777 6092 [59:34]

The composer Ries, born in Bonn, Germany, will not be known to many nowadays, yet he had been London-based, had an English wife and wrote a number of overtures for the Philharmonic Society to perform. The concert 'ouvertures', as such, had been invented by Romberg, Spohr and Schneider. Previously, the regular concert hall practice of starting an evening with a single movement of a symphony was felt too severe an introduction for the audiences. Consequently, lighter pieces were introduced with stronger melodic line and easier on the ear to endear the audience and encourage their focus.

Such ouvertures were not written on the frothy styles of Zampa, Poet and Peasant or Barber of Seville where fanfare and catchy repetitious melodic phrases became the norm. Those were to come later. The ouvertures here are more solid and owe more to Beethoven (Egmont) or Weber (Der Freischütz) in weight and style. This is not surprising for Ries had been a pupil of Beethoven.

I found the pieces soft-toned in colour yet engaging to the ear. Only once did I sit up when I heard off-beat, knocking, percussive effects: I wonder what the audiences expecting a certain legato flow thought of this acoustic intrusion? Ries's Ouverture bardique is particularly British by its inclusion of the well-known Welsh folk song, 'All through the night'. By the time Ries premièred this ouverture, versions of the folk song had been published and even used by Gay in The Beggar's Opera.

Cologne's WDR Symphony Orchestra gives a strong performance and are well coordinated under Howard Griffiths’ direction. Although English there is no record of his home town, only his RCM association. He has gained significant experience on the Continent, especially in Switzerland with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra where he has been Principal Conductor for ten years. He is clearly interested in reviving lost pieces and in this he is well-partnered with CPO who should be congratulated for their fresh approach to the repertoire they cover. The pieces are recorded in a good acoustic with well-balanced dynamics.

The well-written notes by Bert Hagels cover the Ouvertures in detail yet overlooks detail about this interesting composer. The notes are provided in German, English and French.

Raymond J Walker

Strong performances of music that is soft-toned in colour yet engaging to the ear.