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David Hurwitz, December 2014

Christopher Hinterhuber sounds very comfortable in this music; his playing has sufficient sparkle, and he tempers his virtuosity with good taste. The accompaniments are fine too, the sonics very good. Both [works] show Ries at his best. © 2014 Read complete review

Susan Kagan
Fanfare, March 2011

Christopher Hinterhuber has been recording his way steadily through Ferdinand Ries’s 14 works for piano and orchestra. Austrian pianist Hinterhuber and Ries are an excellent match: Ries composed most of these brilliant works for his own concerts while touring Europe as a virtuoso pianist, and Hinterhuber has the brilliant keyboard technique and musical sensibility to bring them back to life.

The three works on this CD are from different periods of Ries’s life (the opus numbers do not accurately reflect the chronology). The C-Minor Concerto (op. 115), published in 1823, was composed in 1809; the date of composition of the Concerto Pastoral in D (op. 120) is not certain, but its dedication to a member of the Swedish royalty in the published edition of 1823 suggests that it was composed near the time Ries became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, around 1813. The Introduction and Rondo Brillant, published posthumously as WoO 54, is the latest of the three works, dating from 1835. Like all of Ries’s music that I have played and heard, the piano concertos are composed with skill and a wealth of inspired musical ideas.

The romantic spirit prevails throughout these works; the concertos are outgoing, flashy works, intended for a less sophisticated audience and more public venue than Ries’s piano sonatas and chamber music. (The word “flashy” is not used pejoratively here—it describes music that aims to entertain the audience with its brilliance.) While Ries indulges in all the typical romantic flourishes in the piano part (very similar to Chopin’s style of figuration), the orchestral sections adhere to classical ideals. The grand opening tutti of the D Major Concerto Pastoral could be by Beethoven; there are even a few brief melodic hints of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” and Ninth symphonies (both, significantly, in the key of D)—but as soon as the piano enters, the romantic keyboard style takes over. A soulful cello solo starts the slow movement, which ends with a horn call to initiate the delightful hunting character of the finale, in a fast 6/8 meter very reminiscent of Mozart’s horn concertos. The C-Minor Concerto from 1809 opens with a sober and melancholy tutti that is somewhat Mozartean, and filled with lovely melodic ideas; it also sounds quite like Beethoven at times—small wonder, since just a few years earlier Ries had premiered Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in Vienna.

Even while Ries often reflects his classical roots, his concertos look forward to the style of the romantic piano composers. His gift for writing beautiful melodies and sparkling keyboard figuration, in addition to his thorough knowledge of orchestral writing, makes these concertos very enjoyable listening. Uwe Grodd, a fine flutist as well as conductor, accompanies Hinterhuber beautifully, the Bournemouth Symphony is excellent, and the balance between piano and orchestra is perfect. Highly recommended.

James Manheim, January 2011

Ferdinand Ries was a confidant of Beethoven and a composer and pianist who followed him rather slavishly. Well known during his lifetime, he was gradually forgotten after his death. This isn’t hard to understand, for his works are on balance imitative; other composers of the era understood Beethoven’s example better by either avoiding it (Schubert) or trying to match its extremity (Mendelssohn, in the Symphony No. 2). Yet the revival of Ries’ works helps modern listeners understand how Beethoven’s contemporaries heard his music. This disc, part of a series on the Naxos label devoted to Ries’ piano concertos, contains a pair of works that gives a good impression of his music. The Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 115, is a warmed-over version of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. More interesting for general listeners is the Concerto Pastoral in D major, Op. 120, whose first movement mashes up the conventions used by Beethoven in the Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, “Pastoral,” with a brilliant concerto form. Ries shows skill in knitting these ideas together, and he matches the unusual opening movement with a diverse finale that announces its amibitions right off with the flat seven step in the opening material and proceeds to a loose, lyrical structure that doesn’t resemble Beethoven much at all. This concerto, 28 minutes long, would make an ideal curtain raiser for one of the Beethoven concertos in concert. Pianist Christopher Hinterhuber and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Uwe Grodd plunge into these works with gusto, and the sound has a nice directness. Recommended for those interested in the early Romantic period.

Steven J Haller
American Record Guide, January 2011

Of the eight piano concertos credited to Ferdinand Ries, with this release we now have six (Naxos 8.557638, 8.557844, 8.570440 and 8.572088) from Christopher Hinterhuber and Uwe Grodd (July/Aug 2009, Jan/Feb 2008, Mar/Apr 2006—all but one of his other short works for piano and orchestra are now accounted for as well). Certainly the jewel box speaks true in characterizing these pieces by Ries as “standing alongside those of Hummel as the most important of their kind from the early decades of the 19th Century, intensely lyrical and yet displaying sometimes a rugged Beethovenian grandeur”, though we need to include the concertos of John Field as well. But it’s folly to attempt to number them in actual order of composition, since as annotator Allan Badley points out Ries wrote them primarily for his own use and preferred to withhold them from publication until audiences had come to expect them from him in recital—thereby warding off performances by others.

The Concerto Pastoral that opens this program he refers to as No. 5—it was published in 1823, though its actual year of composition remains unknown—yet the C minor dating from 1809 and also published in 1823 he calls No. 4—a problem for musicologists that needn’t hinder enjoyment of both of these full-scale concertos, let alone the Introduction et Rondeau Brillant.

Certainly from his studies with Beethoven Ries knew the Pastoral Symphony well. Badley reminds us that the term pastoral was applied to a wide range of symphonies, masses, and concertos of that period. The leisurely unfolding of the opening tutti beginning with the horns was an idiom immediately understood by audiences without need for twittering birds or sudden thunderstorms. Certainly the orchestra at full strength is very much in the tried and true Beethoven manner; yet the soloist soon after entering (2:46) actually employs a downward looping figuration taken straight out of Weber’s Second Concerto—or did Weber copy Ries? (His concerto dates from 1811.) The lyrical second subject is as close to John Field as you could wish. Even more remarkable is Ries’s omission of the violins in the Andantino; and the combination of piano and cellos makes for a most unexpected, yet welcome frisson that must have enraptured Ries’s audiences. But he saved the best for last, with full-throated hunting horns spurring on a hearty gallop that sounds like the piano concerto Rossini never wrote—a wonderful entertainment and played to the hilt by Hinterhuber and the Bournemouth players, who have no doubt seen a fox hunt or two.

The far earlier C minor score may suggest Beethoven too—not in its thematic material so much as its harmonies and structure. After a majestic opening sally it’s 2:21 before the soloist makes his grand entrance and proceeds to show what he can do—which is considerable. In the Adagio I was surprised to hear a four-note downward figure that some 20 years later would lead into the finale of Schumann’s Piano Concerto— it returns in the horn farther in—but it’s Beethoven who surfaces front and center in the lilting Allegretto, most of all the Choral Fantasy in the treble writing near the close.

If the delightful Introduction et Rondeau Brillant might be like two peas in a pod next to John Field’s concert rondos, it once again affords Hinterhuber a chance to shine and completes yet another very fine entry in Naxos’s Ries survey.

The warm and resonant sound only add to one’s enjoyment of the music; and if Hinterhuber’s keyboard sometimes seems a bit brittle on top, the ear soon adjusts. He’s an absolute master of this style and knows when to ease up on the reins and bring out the real character of the music, when to press on and decorum be hanged. If you might want to follow along or even bring these sterling examples from Beethoven’s select circle to the attention of your local orchestra, as with earlier entries in the series you may obtain scores and parts directly from

Lee Passarella
Audiophile Audition, December 2010

Two grand, fully mature concertos by Ferdinand Ries—if you haven’t been collecting this series, Vol. 4 is a very good place to start.

In the distant past when the LP was the only game in town, Ferdinand Ries (1784–1838) was represented by a single work, the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 55, which had enough Beethovenian oomph to make a splash. Today, thanks to those enterprising labels CPO and Naxos, we have available on disc all eight of Ries’s symphonies, many of his solo piano and chamber works, and even his late Mendelssohnian oratorio Die Könige in Israel. Now, with the release of Volume 4 in the series of Ries’s piano concertos, it appears we’ll soon have all nine of the concertos available, too—a happy prospect.

Both the numbering of and opus numbers assigned to the piano concertos are confusing. Nos. 1 and 2 have no opus numbers, while Concerto No. 6, Op. 123, was written before both No. 4, Op. 115, and No. 5, Op. 120. The reason for this confusion is that Ries, as a widely performing pianist-composer, held off publishing his concertos as long as they featured in his active repertoire. When he more or less retired a concerto in favor of newer ones, he deigned to publish it. Both Op. 115 and Op. 120 first appeared in print in 1823, though Op. 115 was written as many as fourteen years earlier. These two concertos illustrate Ries’s constant movement away from the tidal pull of Beethoven’s influence. Op. 115 of 1809 still has those big stentorian tutti that speak Beethoven’s native language; however, the piano writing already evinces the brilliant filigree work that Ries shares with his slightly older contemporary Hummel. As with Ries’s Op. 55, also in C minor, the first movement of Op. 115 recalls Beethoven’s C Minor Concerto (No. 3), but the slow movement has a dreamy, early-Romantic air to it that calls John Field to mind.

Even more Romantic in feel is Op. 120 (circa 1816), which apparently Ries himself nicknamed Concerto Pastoral. The horn calls in the second and third movements underscore the bucolic nature of the concerto. But Ries’s most imaginative touch is to dispense with violins in the songful slow movement, beginning with a tender melody for solo cello and later including the dulcet sounds of violas divisi and two bassoons, followed by solo horn. The last movement rondo has a refreshing, open-air quality with the atmosphere of the hunt about it, thanks to the jaunty rhythms and those aforementioned horn calls.

With its dramatic minor-key introduction and nearly cloudless finale, the Introduction et Rondo Brilliant of 1835 is in the vein of other Romantic-era single-movement concerted works like Mendelssohn’s Capriccio Brilliant or Schumann’s Introduction and Allegro appasionato and seems like them to have some unspoken program behind it. It’s an attractive work that’s about as far removed from Beethoven’s influence as Mendelssohn’s piece is, showing that Ries continued to evolve as a composer even as his performing career declined toward the end of his life.

As in the prior installments in this series, Naxos has found precisely the right combination of artists to do these works justice. Uwe Grodd, whose work I’ve admired in Classical-era pieces by Dittersdorf and Vanhal, is just as comfortable in early-Romantic music and accompanies with understanding and grace, while the Bournemouth Symphony seems to have come into its own recently with a series of successful recordings by British and American composers. Then there is Austrian pianist Christopher Hinterhuber, who was just appointed professor of piano at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. I hope this doesn’t take him away from the recording studio because he’s one of the finest pianists you’ll hear in the early-Romantic repertoire, with both taste and technique to burn.

If you’ve been collecting this series, you won’t need any special prodding from me. If you haven’t begun, by all means do; offering as it does two grand, fully mature concertos by Ries, Volume 4 is a very good place to start.

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.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, December 2010

With this latest entry in Naxos’ traversal of German composer Ferdinand Ries’ (1784–1838) complete piano concertos we pass the halfway point, six of the eight now having been released. A close associate and student of Beethoven (1770–1827), it’s not surprising to find reminders of the Bonn master in this music. However, there’s a melodic succulence and tonal as well as rhythmic fluidity like that found in Hummel’s (1778–1837) pianistic efforts (see the newsletters of 18 April 2006 and 30 January 2008), which anticipates Mendelssohn (1809–1847) and even Chopin (1810–1849).

In addition to being a composer, Ries was a highly successful concert pianist who was much in demand throughout Europe. So it’s not surprising he wrote his concertos to showcase his talents, and delayed their publication as long as possible to keep them exclusively for his own use. The fact he assigned them opus numbers in the order of their appearance in print creates great confusion today as to their compositional chronology. After some extensive sleuthing it would appear the ones here were probably the fourth and sixth (not the fifth as indicated in the album notes) to be written.

The CD begins with the sixth in D major, which Ries called his “Concerto Pastoral” (c. 1815). There’s a rustic tunefulness about this three-movement work that seems much in keeping with its sobriquet. What’s more, the spirited outer sections and dark-hued comely central andantino are riddled with horn calls suggestive of hunting parties and peasants yodeling from mountain tops.

The closing allegro has a recurring theme with more than a passing resemblance to the finale of Mozart’s (1756–1791) third horn concerto (K 447, c. 1784–87). And there are plenty of opportunities for the soloist to strut his stuff in some of Ries’ most elaborately scored passages.

The fourth piano concerto in C minor from 1809 is a much more serious affair, whose antecedents would seem to be the minor key efforts in this genre by Mozart (No. 20 in D minor, K 466, 1785; and No. 24 in C minor, K 491, 1786) and Beethoven (No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, c. 1800). An engaging hyperactive opening allegro is followed by an adagio, where a butterfly piano flutters around a melodically graceful tutti flame, and right into the dazzling allegretto finale. Frequent displays of pianistic fireworks must have given Ries a chance to show off his considerable technical abilities before the concerto ends in a shower of Mendelssohnian sparks.

And speaking of Mendelssohn, the closing selection, Introduction and Rondeau Brillant of 1835, would seem to take its cue from Felix’s Capriccio and Rondo Brillant for piano and orchestra from around 1825 and 1834 respectively. A study in contrasts, the weighty introduction gradually accelerates into an arrestingly catchy rondo. Here the audience is machine-gunned with some staggering bravura keyboard writing. The level of excitement never lets up, making this release another magnificent disc of discovery from the adventurous folks at Naxos.

As on his three previous Ries concerto CDs for Naxos (8557638, 8557844 and 8570440) pianist Christopher Hinterhuber is superb! With a wonderful feel for the fickle tempos and dynamics in these pieces, he makes them sparkle. Again partnered with Uwe Grodd, this time conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the two make the strongest case possible for some music long overdue to emerge from Beethoven’s umbra.

The recordings are very good presenting a wide, deep soundstage in a reverberant acoustic that those liking a dry sound may find a smidgen damp. The piano is beautifully captured and balanced against the orchestra, whose timbre is bright but natural sounding., October 2010

A full picture of Ferdinand Ries’ piano concertos is emerging disc by disc as Naxos releases volume after volume of these well-constructed, frequently very interesting and long-forgotten works. The latest collaboration between Christopher Hinterhuber and Uwe Grodd—the fourth in this series—again offers very fine performances of pieces that contain many interesting elements even though, taken as a whole, they are more well-crafted than truly original. The numbering of Ries’ concertos is very confusing—he wrote nine, but the first was for violin, and he numbered all nine sequentially—and their exact dates of composition are not always clear. Concerto Pastoral got its title from the composer, who probably knew it would be compared with the sixth symphony by his teacher, Beethoven. It has some resemblances to the symphony in the speed of its movements and the way the themes unfold, but they are more uses of conventions of the time than imitations of Beethoven’s creation. There is one especially intriguing element: a solo horn in the finale playing in a meter different from that of the piano and orchestra. The C minor concerto, Op. 115, harks back both to Beethoven’s in the same key and to Mozart’s minor-key concertos, and again has an unusually interesting finale, its headlong motion interrupted by an Adagio section. Also on this CD is a late work by Ries (1784–1838): the Introduction et Rondeau Brillant is known to date to 1835 and combines an impressive slow introduction with a very virtuosic faster section. Rather formulaic in structure, it is very well put together, and Hinterhuber and Grodd give it—and the rest of the music here—a strong and forthright performance that highlights Ries’ skills as both pianist and composer.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2010

Championing Franz Anton Ries has become one of Naxos’s most deserving and successful ventures. As a favourite pupil of Beethoven his credentials were impressive, but it was his move to London in 1813 that was the defining moment in his life. Finding such a dearth of good quality musicians he was happy to be adopted and established as England’s finest pianist-composer of his time. Yet having built a financial fortune, he was to retire at the age of 40 and returned with his English wife to his native Rhineland. Among his formidable catalogue of composition are eight piano concertos that have been passed down and are part of this on-going series. The date of composition of the Concerto Pastoral is unclear, but it may just have predated his arrival in England. The surpriser comes in the similarity to Mendelssohn, though at this date he had yet to compose a note. It is a decorative work, the piano often just dancing around the orchestra, and there is sufficient weight to question the inclusion of ‘pastoral’ in the title. It shares with the even earlier Fourth Piano Concerto the conventional form of two fast movements surrounding a slow one, the sound of a hunting horn directly leading into the brilliant final allegro of the Concerto Pastoral. The fourth concerto starts where that work left off, the music bubbling with vitality, and has pre-echoes of Chopin yet to come. The central movement never finds a memorable theme, but is short, and gives way to a sparkling finale. The Introduction and Rondeau Brillant is a late work unpublished when he died. It makes a happy and lengthy ‘encore’ to the disc. The performances from Christopher Hinterhuber ooze with charm, conductor, Uwe Grood, and the Bournemouth orchestra keeping a pleasing backdrop. Very good sound quality.

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