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Symphonies Nos. 4 & 6

Ries Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Back, Ferdinand Ries! Sept. 8 2003
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
What follows is a brief invective against critics by way of a review, so if you want to read the review only, kindly skip to paragraph 3.
As hard as it is to imagine now, at the turn of the twentieth century it was fashionable for critics to write of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Haydn as second-rate composers. Haydn's chief failures were to have lived into Beethoven's Middle Period, by which time he should have been conveniently long dead, and to have not been Mozart. Mendelssohn's and Schumann's failure was to have not been Wagner (though if Wagner had died, as Mendelssohn had, at age 38, we'd all be asking Richard Who? whenever we hear his name). A hundred years on, of course, these three composers are firmly ensconced (with the possible exception of Mendelssohn) in the Great Composers' League, thanks in large part it seems to me to sound recording. When gifted conductors play Schumann's symphonies, for example, with love and care, we understand fully why they've been in the repertory for 150 years despite cavils about faulty orchestration and development. When a great conductor performs Haydn's choral music, we find that here is the true progenitor of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Choral Symphony, while the younger Mozart for the most part emerges as a composer of Rococo choral-operatic hybrids. (But giving critics their due, they are sometimes the first to recognize their shortcomings. I don't recall how often I've seen a famous Schumann biographer and critic I won't name eat her words about a piece of the master's little-known music once she had finally heard it performed.)
This is all to say that we are similarly lucky to be able to admire the work of Ferdinand Ries, relegated for a century and a half to the scrap heap of Beethoven imitators.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Back, Ferdinand Ries! Sept. 8 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
What follows is a brief invective against critics by way of a review, so if you want to read the review only, kindly skip to paragraph 3.
As hard as it is to imagine now, at the turn of the twentieth century it was fashionable for critics to write of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Haydn as second-rate composers. Haydn's chief failures were to have lived into Beethoven's Middle Period, by which time he should have been conveniently long dead, and to have not been Mozart. Mendelssohn's and Schumann's failure was to have not been Wagner (though if Wagner had died, as Mendelssohn had, at age 38, we'd all be asking Richard Who? whenever we hear his name). A hundred years on, of course, these three composers are firmly ensconced (with the possible exception of Mendelssohn) in the Great Composers' League, thanks in large part it seems to me to sound recording. When gifted conductors play Schumann's symphonies, for example, with love and care, we understand fully why they've been in the repertory for 150 years despite cavils about faulty orchestration and development. When a great conductor performs Haydn's choral music, we find that here is the true progenitor of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Choral Symphony, while the younger Mozart for the most part emerges as a composer of Rococo choral-operatic hybrids. (But giving critics their due, they are sometimes the first to recognize their shortcomings. I don't recall how often I've seen a famous Schumann biographer and critic I won't name eat her words about a piece of the master's little-known music once she had finally heard it performed.)
This is all to say that we are similarly lucky to be able to admire the work of Ferdinand Ries, relegated for a century and a half to the scrap heap of Beethoven imitators. Perhaps it's just that Ries sounds so much like Ludwig that we haven't gotten around to appreciate him as much as, say, Niels Gade-who sounds pretty much like a cross between Mendelssohn and Schumann-is now admired. But once you get over telling yourself that this cadence is right out of Ludwig's Fourth Symphony or that that tutti passage is cribbed from the Eroica, you start to hear what is uniquely Ries, and it is often stunning. Take the mysterious introduction to Ries' Fourth Symphony. Beethoven didn't use introductions in most of his later symphonies, and he never created one as potently ominous as this one, with its prominent drum beats, so that when the sunny F major music of the Allegro enters we feel as if a crisis has been successfully resolved. Similarly, when the dancing main theme of the Sixth Symphony first movement, shadowed throughout the development by D-minor clouds, erupts in a minor-key explosion, we knew all along that the storm was a-brewing. In other words, like Beethoven, Ries builds compelling dramas in the course of his symphonic movements. His elegant, patrician-sounding melodies, like Beethoven's also, lend themselves naturally to symphonic development without quite Ludwig's reliance on motivic cells. Next to Beethoven's, Ries melodies often seem quite long-limbed and are often attractive and memorable.
Then there is the finale of the Sixth Symphony. It is the sort of "victory" music Ludwig wrote for the finale of his Egmont Overture or the notorious "Wellington's Victory," but taking his cue from the Choral Symphony, Ries includes Turkish percussion and creates a refreshingly jaunty, almost dancing victory celebration unlike any Beethoven ever penned. And yet, with the exception of the Spohr-like slow movement, this symphony is not Beethoven light. That balletic last movement has muscle and sinew galore. And perhaps that's the point. If Beethoven had established the symphony as a musical form of high drama, the problem for his successors was to find new ways to let that drama unfold. In his Sixth Symphony at least, Ries found a very satisfying way to do just that.
Elsewhere, I have praised Howard Griffiths' recording of the Ries Third and Fifth Symphonies, but I think if you want an introduction to the symphonic Ries, the current recording is the one to have. The unusual nature of the Sixth Symphony and the dramatic intensity of the Fourth mark these as the finest symphonies I've heard from the composer, and the performances are absolutely top-notch-razor sharp and potent. Excellent sound from CPO, too, captured in a resonant acoustic that lends a proper grandeur to Ries' music. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven's student at work. . . . Aug. 16 2010
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I first became aware of Ferdinand Ries as I watched the DVD of the movie, "Eroica," a story of the first performance of Beethoven's Symphony # 3. Ries was a key character.

Thus, I was very interested in acquiring this CD. And it ends up being a pretty good work! Does it sound somewhat like Beethoven? Unsurprisingly, yes. But it is not simply a mindless reference to Beethoven. This CD represents his 4th and 6th symphonies, played competently by the Zurcher Kammerorchester, conducted by Howard Griffiths. The Fourth Symphony was composed in 1818, when Ries was 34 (not much different in age from when Beethoven composed the "Eroica").

Symphony # 4. . . . The first movement begins with a mysterious air. Then, the volume and pace pick up. Tempos vary--from more elegiac to more energetic. The horns come into play early to good effect. There are dynamic elements apparent once the movement "gets going." The movement ends with decently constructed crescendo to my ears.

Movement # 2? This starts at a slow pace, with strings taking the lead. It does develop nicely as a slow movement. The scherzo, Movement # 3, starts at the quick pace. It is very energetic and, from my listening, engaging. The final movement starts at what could be termed a sprightly pace. Good dynamics. There are lively up tempo portions. The symphony closes out nicely.

Overall, a nicely constructed symphony. Great? Nope. Good. Yep.

Symphony # 6, likewise, is a solid piece of composition.

In the final analysis, I find these two works enjoyable to listen to. Ries is not Beethoven. But he is also not a cipher. . . .
4.0 out of 5 stars Good music April 11 2014
By Richard Roth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Ries is one of the most underrated and unknown composers of his time. His symphony's have wonderful power and are very lyrical. I recommend not only this recording but his piano concertos. In my 70 years of concert going I have never heard one of his compositions played. Very sad he deserves to be heard.
3 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somebody was ripping somebody off. Aug. 25 2005
By Belmonticus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I was two rooms away from my boom box, busy and focused on a project. I noticed the music playing. "That's Beethoven's 9th Symphony," I said to myself.

I am very new to classical music. I have over the last several months heard a smattering of most of the "greats." I have picked up an assortment of CD's representing many of the masters.

About two weeks ago, somebody recommended Beethoven's 9th---I immediately fell in love with it. I have listened to it a half a dozen time, since.

Now, back to my story, and my point! I ran into the room where I had my radio, wanting to look at the display which would tell me what conductor and what orchestra was playing Beethoven's 9th. (I have Sirius Satellite Radio---it doest that!)

To my surprise, it wasn't Beethoven at all, but Ferdinand Reis. I started to listen to the music.

No, it wasn't Beethoven's 9th!!

*** BUT IN ALMOST EVERY RESPECT, TO THE EAR OF THIS NOVICE LISTENER, IT WAS SO SIMILAR THAT IT WAS EERIE. ***

My conclusion:

Somebody had to be ripping somebody off. Either Reis was imitating Beethoven, or it was the other way around.

This argument becomes convincing when you realize that I, the novice, believed he was hearing Beethoven's 9th two rooms away, and at the time I was hardly paying attention to what was on the radio. And when I heard the fragments of Reis' 6th Symphony come over the radio (and, as yet, I hadn't listened to more than some fragments) I knew without any hesitation that I was listening to Beethoven. Not a doubt in my mind! And this is in spite of the fact that In most other cases with the composers that I have been trying to acquaint myself with, I can barely identify most of them on first hearing.

SOMEBODY WAS PLAGIARIZING SOMEBODY!
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