Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)
Violin Sonata in F major, Op.8 No.1 (1807) [26:01]
Violin Sonata in C sharp minor, Op.71 (1812) [17:33]
Violin Sonata in B flat major, Op.16 No.2 (1806) [18:05]
Ariadne Daskalakis (violin)
Wolfgang Brunner (fortepiano)
rec. April 2011, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal
CPO 777 676-2 [61:54]

Ferdinand Ries, famous for being one of Beethoven’s few genuine students – he took lessons from Beethoven in Vienna from 1801 to 1805 – wrote a sequence of violin sonatas until 1813, after which his output for the medium slowed and eventually ceased altogether. It’s conjectured that whilst he retained close connections to his native city of Bonn, where he could perform such works with his father Anton (who had taught Beethoven the violin), the sonatas flowed. During his many years of virtuoso travelling the impetus for composition waned until his return in 1824.

Whatever the cause may be for this unbalanced compositional output Ries is certainly worthy of investigation when it comes to his violin writing, despite the inevitable primacy of the compositions for his own instrument, the piano. The Op.8 No.1 sonata in F major is, nevertheless, a perplexing work. Had manuscript paper been rare at the time, and reusable, then Ries’s sonata might be construed as a kind of palimpsest of Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. This graceful, lyric work is largely predicated on the earlier one with themes that are more-than-somewhat adjacent. There is the same freshness in the opening, the metrical games-playing in the Allegretto – desynchronization wit – and then a Largo that really doesn’t get up much of a head of steam, instead serving as a kind of compressed introduction to the Rondo finale. This is hybrid Rondo and sonata form, and avuncular contrapuntal writing flourishes here.

The Op.71 Sonata is his last proper violin sonata, and somewhat resembles, in outline, Beethoven’s Op.30 No.2. These correlations and influences may not have been so obvious to a contemporary audience, many of whom would have unfamiliar with Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, of course, but they seem very obvious to a listener today. What satisfies about this work is the raptly hymnal central slow movement and the light-hearted triplets in the finale with its gentle wind-down. This is a much more personalised work than the frankly derivative Op.8 No.1. Finally, there is a work written in 1806, the B flat major sonata Op.16 No.2. This has an airy Mozartian quality, full of vocalised elegance but a few quirky key changes enliven proceedings. Ries is always adept at concise elegance in slow movements and here crafts a charming Polonaise finale that dances vivaciously.

The notes are concise and helpful, and the recording is good.

Wolfgang Brunner is the accomplished fortepianist whilst Ariadne Daskalakis, despite snatching at a few notes here and there, brings out the geniality of the writing. She plays on a modern set-up violin.

Jonathan Woolf

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