Ensemble Schönbrunn

Ferdinand Ries & Johannes Nisle: Out of The Shadow of the Masters

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Various works of Beethoven's student Ferdinand Ries have surfaced on recordings early in the 21st century. All reveal a composer with an impressive grasp of Beethoven's language, especially in terms of large-scale harmonic design and its coordination with local motivic detail. Just as surely, all lack what might be called the fierce urgency of now. The situation remains consistent with this album of chamber music, but the novelty here is the presence of the flute, an instrument Beethoven and Schubert both generally avoided. The most attractive of the three works on the album may be the Quintet in B minor, Op. 107, where the flute, especially in the opening movement, is stretched to the limit in being forced to deliver big, fortissimo Beethovenian themes. The work can make a reasonable claim to being something like the flute quintet Beethoven would have written if he had written one. The opening Flute Quartet in C minor, Op. 145/1, apes Beethoven in its solemn mood and C minor tonality but is enlivened by an "alla Espagnola" finale. Still rarer than Ries is the Septet in E flat major by Johann Martin Friedrich Nisle, one of a family of Viennese musicians several of whose members have received attribution for the work. The septet, performed here with an added double bass, is neither really Mozartian nor Beethovenian; it is, like the Ries quintet, an athletic work (the bassoon part is notably challenging), and it seems to owe something to the wind band arrangements of operatic scores that have come down from the period. The Ensemble Schönbrunn and Dutch flutist Marten Root handle the considerable technical difficulties well, and Root's enthusiastic notes ("I freely admit it: I love Ferdinand Ries' music") are an added bonus. Those notes are given in English, French, and German.

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