Christopher Hinterhuber / Uwe Grodd / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Ferdinand Ries: Piano Concertos, Vol. 4

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Ferdinand Ries was a confidant of Beethoven and a composer and pianist who followed him rather slavishly. Well known during his lifetime, he was gradually forgotten after his death. This isn't hard to understand, for his works are on balance imitative; other composers of the era understood Beethoven's example better by either avoiding it (Schubert) or trying to match its extremity (Mendelssohn, in the Symphony No. 2). Yet the revival of Ries' works helps modern listeners understand how Beethoven's contemporaries heard his music. This disc, part of a series on the Naxos label devoted to Ries' piano concertos, contains a pair of works that gives a good impression of his music. The Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 115, is a warmed-over version of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. More interesting for general listeners is the Concerto Pastoral in D major, Op. 120, whose first movement mashes up the conventions used by Beethoven in the Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral," with a brilliant concerto form. Ries shows skill in knitting these ideas together, and he matches the unusual opening movement with a diverse finale that announces its amibitions right off with the flat seven step in the opening material and proceeds to a loose, lyrical structure that doesn't resemble Beethoven much at all. This concerto, 28 minutes long, would make an ideal curtain raiser for one of the Beethoven concertos in concert. Pianist Christopher Hinterhuber and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Uwe Grodd plunge into these works with gusto, and the sound has a nice directness. Recommended for those interested in the early Romantic period.

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