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Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)
Complete Works for Cello – Volume 1
Cello Sonata in C major, Op. 20 [19:30]
Cello Sonata in A major, Op. 21 [26:57]
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 125 [29.24]
Martin Rummel (cello)
Stefan Stroissnig (piano)
rec. 2017, Schloss Weinberg, Austria
NAXOS 8.573726 [75.59]

Ferdinand Ries was a pianist and composer, leaving an output of an astonishing 180 works, amongst which can be found operas, oratorios, symphonies, chamber music and solo piano pieces.  Unfortunately, most of these are still not in the standard repertoire, but a huge effort has been made in recent years to record his oeuvre, most notably by Naxos and CPO. All three sonatas on this CD have been recorded before (e.g. Brilliant Classics 95206), but both Rummel and Stroissnig set very high standards in this recording. The Austrian cellist Martin Rummel was born 1974 and was the last pupil of William Pleeth. As he has played his part in over fifty recordings so far – many of which focus on forgotten composers – he is an excellent fit for the Ries sonatas. He tours the world as soloist and chamber musician and is editor of all major cello etudes editions for Bärenreiter. To his compatriot, the pianist Stefan Stroissnig (born 1985), chamber music is also very dear, which has already led to co-operations with many renowned musicians such as Heinrich Schiff, Nobuko Imai and Shmuel Ashkenasi. This CD is their first collaboration.

Ries was born in Bonn, Germany, into a musical family where he received piano lessons from Beethoven. Aged 17, he went to Vienna to be further trained by Beethoven whilst looking after the aging composer. Touring Europe in the early 1800s, he settled in London in 1813 where he married and became a member of the Philharmonic Society. It was also Ries who secured Beethoven the commission for his Ninth Symphony. All four of Ries’ cello sonatas are true duos rather than a piano sonata with cello accompaniment. Both his Cello Sonata in C major, Op.20 and the A major, Op. 21 sonata were composed in 1808 while he dwelled in Paris. They were both written for, and dedicated to, Bernhard Romberg, a cellist admired by Beethoven himself, yet both sonatas could be played by skilled amateur cellists and were not specifically written as virtuosic showpieces for Romberg, although they made use of techniques he would have favoured.

It took Ries another fifteen years to compose his next and last cello sonata, the Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 125. Composed in London in 1823, it was not published until 1825 by T. Boosey & Co. As Ries had arranged Beethoven’s sonatas earlier, some structural elements of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Cello (Op. 5, No. 2) as well as his Cello Sonata (Op. 69) may have made it into Ries’ composition.

The combination of Stroissnig’s fresh and sometimes cheeky rendering on the one side, and Rummel’s modest yet exquisite mastering of the cello on the other, results in a very good recording. This CD comes with notes in English and German, which, despite being very short, give some valuable background information on the compositions and Ries, as well as on the performers. Although Ries’ sonatas are still not in the standard repertoire, this recording has yet again very clearly shown that they ought to be. Luckily, we are now in the fortunate position to be able to be fussy and choose between recordings of his sonatas, something which one cannot take for granted with unrightfully underrepresented and nearly neglected composers such as Ries. Of the recordings available, the current one would definitely be the one to find its way not only onto my shelf, but indeed into the CD player.

Max Burgdörfer



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