T he German composer Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) was a friend, pupil and secretary to Beethoven who composed eight symphonies, nine piano concertos and 26 string quartets as well as many other works. Ries’s father had taught Beethoven, and Beethoven was the younger Ries’s mentor. On his deathbed, Beethoven said “Fetch Ries…”, so he was very important in Beethoven’s life. As a pianist, Ries was noted for his wildness and he must have been quite a performer. Maybe that also came from Beethoven – he was wild too.

Piers Lane with The Orchestra Now and Leon Botstein at Carnegie Hall. Photo © David DeNee

Later on, Ries disappeared from concert programs as happens with so many people. Chopin came along and eclipsed many composers who came along between Beethoven and the Romantics like Schumann, Liszt and Mendelssohn. They took music in a new direction, but Ries was one of the people who helped make that happen. His music is not as profound as Beethoven, but it’s feeling its way towards the Romantic period and he can really handle a tune. The sort of decorations he writes for the...

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