Ever since Ferdinand Ries’s father had taught Beethoven the violin in Bonn, the Master had always retained very fond memories of the Ries family and their kindnesses to him. When Ries arrived in Vienna with a letter of recommendation from his father, Beethoven immediately took him under his wing as a piano student and began a career that was to bring him a modest fortune and a substantial living. Ries had quite a career as a pianist (playing many of Beethoven’s works) and as a composer. Though often accused of being a Beethoven-derivative (and even by the composer himself), Ries’s music displays a startling originality and clever craftsmanship that lends itself very freely to the ear and emotions. I can honestly say that I have never heard a piece by him that I did not instantly like.
The three Flute Quartets on this disc are a product of Ries’s retirement years, and show themselves to be completely mature masterworks of the highest order. They will remind you of Beethoven, yet there is something about them that Ries makes his own. At the same time the evident mastery of form and marvelous inventiveness of melody and structure belong to a composer of the most consummate abilities. I wish I was as happy about the recording; the Sacred Heart Chapel of the Dominican Convent in Sparkill, New York is not captured to best effect, and the reverb affects the balance in a negative way. Mr. Littlefield’s flute does not possess the finest tonal luster in this recording, though it could certainly be the fault of the recording—it is impossible to tell, though technically he and his cohorts are completely on top of their game, and the interpretations are energetic and persuasive. If you don’t know Ries you should certainly try him out one way or another.
— Steven Ritter