We have a lot to thank Ferdinand Ries for, not least Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for which he arranged the commission. Beethoven was taught violin by Ries’s father Franz Anton and he returned the favour by taking Ferdinand on as his assistant. Now, thanks to some fine recordings, the pupil’s music is beginning to emerge from behind the great man’s gigantic shadow and The Nash Ensemble’s new disc shines a light on two sextets, a piano trio and a piece for cello and piano.
Ries was a fine concert pianist and this is reflected in the Grand Sextet in C, which opens this album. The long first movement is concerto-like—magnificently handled by Simon Crawford-Phillips. The middle movement is a lovely set of variations on the Irish folk song The Last Rose of Summer, while the finale is a sparkling showpiece.
Cellist Adrian Brendel, son of Alfred, takes the spotlight for the lovely Introduction and a Russian dance, while Beethoven’s influence pervades the Piano Trio in C Minor. Ries is often criticised for being unoriginal—Beethoven thought him too imitative—but there are some lovely melodies and fine interplay between Crawford-Phillips, Brendel and Stephanie Gonley’s violin.
For the Sextet in G minor, Benjamin Frith’s piano, Hugh Webb’s harp, Richard Hosford’s clarinet, Ursula Leveaux’s bassoon, Richard Watkins’ horn and Graham Mitchell’s double bass combine to create a rich and rewarding sound world.
Ries wrote a swag of works across all genres so we can all look forward to hearing a lot more of his music.