Monday, July 29, 2013

Ries - Piano Concerto No. 8 'Gruss an den Rhein'

The Ries family and Ludwig van Beethoven's family resided in Bonn, where the elder Franz Ries gave early instruction to young Beethoven. Beethoven remained connected to the Ries family all of his life and held Franz Ries in high regard as Franz had helped Beethoven after the death of his mother.

Ferdinand Ries, son of the elder Franz, traveled to Vienna where Beethoven was living and he had with him a letter of introduction from his father. Ferdinand was already a good musician at the age of eighteen, and Beethoven took him as a piano student from 1803 to 1805.  He further saw to his education by sending him to teachers in Vienna for harmony and counterpoint. The young Ries progressed so well with his studies that Beethoven requested that he play the piano part in the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor in 1804. 

Ferdinand was not only a student but a friend to Beethoven. He became his copyist, helped in negotiations with music publishers, and was involved with the first performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat 'Eroica'. 

Ries fled Vienna in 1805 for fear of conscription in the French Army that occupied Vienna at the time. He concertized his
Ludwig van Beethoven
way around Europe for a few years and finally settled in London, England. He was associated with the great Salomon, the musician and concert promoter that brought Haydn in England a few years before, and Ries was featured in some of Salomon's concerts.  While in London, Ries remained in contact with Beethoven, negotiated terms for the publication of Beethoven's works in England and was instrumental in getting Beethoven a commission for a work for the London Philharmonic orchestra that resulted in the 9th Symphony. 

Ries was a prolific composer and wrote pieces in most of the genres of his time, among them being 7 Symphonies, 9 Piano Concertos, various chamber pieces, and much music for piano. His style can remind the listener of Beethoven, but he was not a copy-cat composer. His music is something of a bridge from Beethoven to composers such as Chopin and Schumann.

The Piano Concerto No. 8 is in three movements:

I. Allegro con spirito - Ries retired in 1824 and moved back to Germany with his English wife.  Despite his retirement, he remained active as composer, pianist and conductor. He wrote the concerto in 1826 and titled it  'Gruss an den Rhein' (Greetings From The Rhine), as a tribute to the river he grew up near. The music of the opening of the first movement has a sweep and feeling to it of the river flowing along its banks. There is a faint reminiscence of his teacher's music to it, especially in the sonata form used, but at the same time Ries speaks with his own voice.

II. Larghetto con moto - A short movement that depicts to my ear a certain melancholy, perhaps of times and people remembered from his youth in Bonn on the Rhine river.

III. - Rondo:Allegro molto - The calmness of the preceding movement is swept away by the full orchestra as it introduces the soloist in a cadenza of stunning virtuosity. After this, the rondo theme begins and the orchestra and piano engage in a rapid-fire dialog. Ries' piano writing in this movement is brilliant and demanding. The influence of Beethoven on Ries' music is somewhat less in this movement, save for the virtuoso treatment of both soloist and orchestra.  The piano glitters in the finale to the movement, and the orchestra brings the concerto to a close.


  1. A wonderful performances of this Ries piano concerto- a composer relegated to the pages of music history as "a student of Beethoven in Vienna and family friend through the auspices of his father (Beethoven's violin teacher) from the Bonn days". Ries music deserves a much wider audience, and these recordings jump start that desire... Superbly played and conducted- these concertos are a transition from Beethoven to the future works of later pianist-composers in the 19th century...quite amazing, realizing the context of when they were composed...

  2. This series of recordings of Ferdinand Ries piano concertos by Conductor Uve Grodd and Piano soloist Christian Hinterhuber with various orchestras is a significant contribution to World Music. It rightly gives prominence to a little known composer who was closely associated with Beethoven. These musicians deserve the greatest credit for their wonderful contribution to music lovers the world over. Robert O'Hara (N.Z.)