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Robert Reilly
CatholiCity, December 2010

RIES, F.: Piano Sonatas and Sonatinas (Complete), Vol. 2 (Kagan) – Op. 1, 5 8.570743
RIES, F.: Piano Sonatas and Sonatinas (Complete), Vol. 3 (Kagan) – Op. 9, No. 2 and Op. 26, “L’infortunee” / The Dream, Op. 49 8.572204
RIES, F.: Piano Concertos, Vol. 4 (Hinterhuber, Grodd) – Nos. 4 and 5, “Pastoral” / Introduction and Rondeau Brilliant 8.572088

The Naxos label has stayed true to the music of Beethoven student and biographer Ferdinand Ries (1784–1838) by issuing volume No. 4 of his Piano Concertos (Op. 120 and Op. 115), as well as Vols. 2 and 3 of Ries’s Piano Sonatas and Sonatinas (8.572204 and 8.57229), superbly played by Susan Kagan. The concertos (Naxos 8.572088) display a muscular, rugged, Beethoven-like character and are robustly performed by pianist Christopher Hinterhuber and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, under Uwe Grodd. Anyone interested in late Classical/early Romantic music will find these CDs fascinating.

Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

As predicted, Susan Kagan’s traversal of Ferdinand Ries’s piano music has uncovered valuable music, his Sonatas Op. 1, No. 1 and Op. 1, No. 2. Dedicated to his teacher, Beethoven, these extended works are Beethovenian both in scope and in the way Ries treats his worthy materials. Kagan plays them powerfully, as befits this impressive music. The disc also contains the Sonatinas, Op. 5 Nos. 1 and 2.

Colin Clarke
Fanfare, May 2009

Ries was a tremendously popular composer in his lifetime. Virtually everything he wrote was published. Famously, he was Beethoven’s piano pupil (he was under Albrechtsberger for composition), and he was remarkable for his fusion of Beethovenian elements with foreshadowings of later composers such as Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Chopin. Thus, proto-Schubertian elements jostle with Beethovenian shadows in the first movement of the C-Major Sonata, op. 1/1 (the two sonatas, op. 1, were published in Bonn in 1807). On an immediate level, there are similarities between this sonata and Beethoven’s C-Major Sonata, op. 2/3; melodic decoration in the Adagio ma non tanto generally reflects the influence of Beethoven’s early piano style, also. Op.1/1 is the only sonata on the disc in four movements as opposed to three. It includes a charming Menuetto that, in a lesser performer’s hands, could degenerate into mere teaching material. Kagan lavishes it with all the affection she can muster, though, elevating its stature somewhat. The Rondo plays with meter (2/4 and 6/8) and is rather subdued in character.

The Second Sonata of the op. 1 set is in three movements. The minor mode immediately establishes a contrasting mood to the preceding C-Major. There is charm, and wit aplenty in the hybrid second movement, though, and the finale has a sort of subdued grazioso feel to it. The two sonatas actually work well as a pair, and listening straight through is an eminently satisfying experience.

The gap in expressive intent between “sonata” and “sonatina” is immediately apparent when Kagan launches into the slight B♭ Sonatina. An infinitely sweet bonbon, this Sonatina reaches back to early Haydn. The Andantino central movement is of a controlled stateliness. Nothing here is seriously going to disturb the general delicacy; the same goes for the companion F-Major Sonatina, despite a more determined second theme in its first movement. The first movement of this Sonatina effectively evaporates; out of the silence comes the charming D-Minor Andantino. And if you don’t smile at the finale, you haven’t got a pulse.

The piano sound (Kaufman Astoria Studios, Queens, New York) is well judged without being exceptional. What is exceptional is Kagan’s fervent, eloquent advocacy of Ries. She writes her own booklet notes, and they exude the air of someone steeped in this music. More, she co-edited the editions used for the sonatinas (with Allan Badley, who single-handedly edited the sonatas—

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2009

There is a lot of attractive music in this second volume of Ries' solo piano works, with Beethoven's influence plainly evident. Yet while Ludwig grabs one by the lapels and commands attention, Ries manages to speak the same musical language in a more relaxed, less dramatic and at times fun-filled manner. In Susan Kagan, this music finds a sympathetic interpreter possessed of a thorough understanding of the style.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2009

Arriving in London in 1813 from his native Germany, Ferdinand Ries became so popular as a concert pianist and composer, that eleven years later he had amassed such a personal fortune he was able to retire at the age of 40. His fatherhad taught violin to the young Beethoven, and it was to Beethoven that he had sent his son as a piano student. From therein Ries became a very active concert pianist touring extensively around Europe while composing a sizeable catalogue of works largely dominated by the piano. Eight concertos survive together with an edition of ‘Sonatas and Sonatinas’, the former works of considerable inspiration, though the solo keyboard scores lack the melodic invention that drives music into your memory. The present disc contains two sonatas and two sonatines, and, as with the first volume in the series, it is the lightweight sonatinas that give the greatest pleasure, the two worthy early sonatas too intent on making a powerful statement in deference to Beethoven’s influence. But turn to track 10, the Rondo finale to the first of the two opus 5 sonatinas, and you will discover music that is so infectiously happy. The American pianist, Susan Kagan, is much in tune with Ries, her nimble fingers getting around the fast passages with consummate ease, and I appreciate that she is making the most out of the big gestures in the sonatas. At times there is a tendency to speed original tempos as the movement progresses, but shows that there is a high level of spontaneity in these well recorded performances.

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