Beethoven reputedly said of his pupil Ferdinand Ries that he was talented but that he "imitates me too much," and the few earlier recordings of Ries' piano concertos, naturally enough taken from the first part of his career when he was a star virtuoso, did nothing to challenge that evaluation. This album, however, contains Ries' last two concertos and is an entirely different story. By the early 1830s, Ries was not such a renowned figure, but he was clearly keeping up with new trends in the piano music of Hummel, Field, and even perhaps Chopin, of whom the middle Introduction and Polonaise is strongly reminiscent. The two concertos are spacious works with ornamented figuration, chromatic modulations, and, yes, a bit of Beethoven, but Beethoven is present in little quotations or strong allusions, indicating perhaps that the student by this time was confident enough of his own identity. Sample perhaps one of the slow movements, where Ries' skill as an orchestrator is on full display. Pianist Piers Lane and New York state's little-known Orchestra Now give the music its appropriate weight under scholar-conductor Leon Botstein, and Hyperion's engineers do very well in the unfamiliar surroundings of an auditorium at New York's Bard College. An above-average entry in Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series, and one that has contributions to make to the music history books.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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