Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Naxos and affiliates are doing the music world a double favor, not just by recording this worthy music in fine performances, but also by publishing it (through Artaria Editions) so that others have the opportunity to play it. Let’s hope that they do. Ferdinand Ries likely was Beethoven’s most famous pupil, and if you’ve been collecting CPO’s complete symphony cycle, you already know that he was a significant if not earth-shattering creative voice. Twenty years separate these two concertos. The earlier C major piece dates from 1806 and obviously recalls Mozart as its chief model (Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos had yet to appear). It’s very pretty, tuneful, and effectively written for the soloist. Speaking of which, Christopher Hinterhuber plays extremely well, and presumably deserves credit for the excellent cadenza at the end of the first movement.

The Concerto in A-flat, subtitled “Gruss an den Rhein”, represents a musical homecoming for the composer after many years spent in London. The triple-time opening movement might call to mind Schumann in his similarly ebullient “Rhenish” mood, as does the piano writing itself. If you’ve enjoyed the contemporary concertos of Hummel, then you will know what to expect: music halfway between Beethoven and Chopin. The increase in virtuosity goes hand in hand with a more relaxed formal organization. In the first movement the opening tutti is quite brief, and there are no formal cadenzas at all. This concerto deserves to return to the active repertoire, with Hinterhuber’s elegance and verve (not to mention his nice, clean scales) making an excellent case for the work. Uwe Grodd also deserves credit for conducting the New Zealand Symphony with the requisite energy. To the credit of all concerned, the music never once sounds second rate. The sonics are very fine too. A real discovery, then, and best of all Naxos lists this as “Volume 1”.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

FERDINAND RIES - Piano Concertos in C major & A-flat major

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