FERDINAND RIES: Symphonies No. 7 in A minor & No. 8 in E flat Major – Zurich Chamber Orchestra/Howarad Griffiths – CPO

by | Jun 7, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

FERDINAND RIES: Symphonies No. 7 in A minor & No. 8 in E
flat Major – Zurich Chamber Orchestra/Howarad Griffiths – CPO
multichannel SACD 999 904-2, 67:16 ****:

German composer and pianist Ries lived until 1838. His father was a
close friend of Beethoven’s and arranged for Ferdinand to study with
the master in Vienna.  He toured Europe and Russian as a concert
pianist and later was a piano teacher in London.  As a composer he
was prolific, writing 52 piano sonatas, eight piano concertos and eight
symphonies, of which this pair is the last two. His music is strong in
the compositional techniques as well as spirit of Beethoven, but he
lacked his former teacher’s genius.

Both of the symphonies are about 33 minutes length.  No. 7 was
quite a success when premiered. It has a positive and often jovial
character.  Although one critic mentioned it’s proximity to the
style of Haydn, another waxed enthusiastically about its supposed
depictions of “the rising of the day star… a delightful May
day…gaiety appears everywhere and builds the throne for love.” 
Well! 

 
Greater boldness in harmonics and a more
abrupt style mark the later Eighth Symphony. It seems that Ries wanted
to free himself from the compositional conventions he had followed up
to that time. The first movement starts out fortissimo with a doubled
upbeat – no slow introduction as in his other symphonies. In the slow
movement he drops out the trombone and timpani and concentrates on
exchanges between the winds and string section. The finale of the 8th
is entirely different from those of his earlier symphonies – much more
expressive, with strong modulations and a stirringly inevitable
conclusion.

Recorded in a large church in Zurich, the multichannel option is far
superior to the stereo SACD and of course to the stereo CD layer. It
was surprising to find in the note booklet for the disc a one-page
essay on the whys and wherefores of making this recording in surround
sound.  I thought they were so appropriate that you will find them
as this issue’s Special Feature.

– John Sunier

 

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