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Oehler: Ries – Piano Sonatas (FLAC)

Oehler: Ries - Piano Sonatas (FLAC)
Oehler: Ries – Piano Sonatas (FLAC)

Composer: Ferdinand Ries
Performer: Alexandra Oehler
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks+cue)
Label: Cpo
Size: 172 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

Grande Sonate for piano in D major, Op. 9
01. Allegro
02. Tempo di Menuetto ma molto moderato
03. Thema con variazioni. Allegretto
04. Variazioni 1
05. Variazioni 2
06. Variazioni 3
07. Variazioni 4
08. Variazioni 5
09. Variazioni 6
10. Variazioni 7 Più lento (attacca)
11. Variazioni 8 Allegretto vivace (attaca)
12. Adagio – Tempo 1mo

Grande Sonate Fantaisie L’Infortuné for piano in F sharp minor, Op. 26
13. Adagio con espressione – Allegro molto agitato
14. Andante – attacca
15. Finale. Presto

Sonatina for piano, Op. 5/1
16. Andantino

Sonatina for piano, Op. 5/2
17. Andantino

Piano Sonatas by a Beethoven Acolyte

Until about a year ago my only association to the name of Ferdinand Ries was that he was one of the earliest biographers of Beethoven. I’ve since learned that he had served as Beethoven’s copyist and studied piano under him (but not composition — for that Beethoven sent him to Albrechtsberger). He was a virtuoso pianist (as well as a competent violinist and cellist) and much of his music is for piano. cpo has already released some piano concertos and piano trios, but this the first solo piano CD in their burgeoning series of Ries releases. The CD includes two sonatas and a couple of andantino movements from piano sonatinas.

Ries obviously paid attention to the changes Beethoven was making in the form of the piano sonata. Each of the sonatas presented here breaks with the classical format. The D Major Sonata, Op. 9, places a minuet as the second movement. And an odd minuet it is, too. It is in a slow triple meter, so weighty and slow in fact that one initially hears the meter as duple because each beat is divided into two eighths. Further, the ‘minuet’ is exceedingly contrapuntal, at times almost sounding like a Bach two-part invention, and if that weren’t enough it is in a minor key until we reach the folksong-like trio. In spite of the weight of the longer first sonata-allegro movement, it is this middle movement that anchors this fascinating sonata. The third and final movement is a set of variations based on the classical model in which each succeeding variation has decreased note values until the middle variation when that trend is reversed in order to build to a maestoso conclusion. This is not quite Beethovenian music — there is much here to remind one of Weber or even Mendelssohn — but it is obviously built on the foundation of his early and middle period sonatas.

The second sonata here, the Grande Sonate Fantaisie, Op. 26 , is subtitled ‘The Unfortunate Man.’ After a slow introduction, the first movement sprints off the blocks in a pattern very reminiscent of Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata, but in a minor key. There are dramatic minor key arpeggio cascades and tremolandi interrupted now and again with plangent slow comments, Sturm-und-Drang in effect. One wonders if there is a narrative for this sonata, but we are not supplied with any in the booklet notes. The middle movement is a sad, slow song and leads directly into the presto finale, another sonata-allegro, still in a minor key, that has a songlike second subject. There is a ‘quasi fantasia’ quality to the whole sonata, surely influenced by Beethoven’s two sonatas so subtitled.

The two andantino movements are simpler in construction and excerpted from two sonatinas Ries wrote during a prolonged stay in London in 1823. They are showy, use variation form, and are relatively more ‘classical’ in form.

Alexandra Oehler is a young Leipzig pianist and pedagog. She reportedly has specialized in obscure repertoire and the selections here certainly qualify for that designation; she makes a good case for them but it is unreasonable to expect that these works will be widely taken up by other pianists. I’m glad we have this recording; they shed light on an interesting second-tier composer from the early Romantic era.

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