String Quartet No.8 in c minor, Op.150 No.2
“After hearing String Quartet No.8 in c minor, Op.150 No.2 by Ferdinand Ries, composed around 1826, one cannot but feel the unfairness of Ries merely being remembered today as a student and biographer of Beethoven. If this quartet is any indication, at least some of Ries’ music deserves public performance and ought to be explored by amateurs and professionals alike. The opening Allegro begins with a descending rhythmic fate motif, which though rhythmically different from the last movement of Mozart’s K.421, nevertheless bears a similarity in feeling to it. Subsequently, the first violin is given a marvellous melody which sounds, as does the rest of this movement, as if had been written by Spohr. The following Andante consists of a theme and set of 3 variations. The use of the cello, in the variation where the viola is featured, resembles Beethoven’s treatment in Op.18 No.5, but this not to suggest that it sounds anything like that work. An Allegro Vivace is an engaging scherzo. The opening to the Beethovian finale, Allegro agitato, is quite exciting and well conceived. The second theme, a lovely and sycopated melody, has a brief but electrifying violin duet in their highest register. This is a satisfying work, entirely worthy of concert performance.”—–The Chamber Music Journal.
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) during his lifetime and for much of the 19 century was remembered as a fine composer and virtuoso pianist. He showed musical promise from an early age, studying both violin and piano with his father, and the cello with Bernhard Romberg. In 1801, he went to Vienna to study piano and composition with Beethoven and stayed with him for nearly 5 years. Thereafter, Ries concertized throughout Europe for a number of years before settling in London and then finally retiring in Frankfurt. He wrote a considerable amount of music including several piano concertos and a large quantity of chamber music which was many years often performed and well thought of. Ries composed string quartets throughout his entire life, at least 26. He wrote many more string quartets than he did piano sonatas, piano trios, piano quartets or other works with piano, surprising for a virtuoso pianist and one is forced to conclude that he felt the string quartet to be a far more important medium than those with piano or at the very least he harbored real ambition to make an important contribution to the genre as had his teacher Beethoven. And like Beethoven, he took his time, trying other chamber music genres before turning to the string quartet.
Of the 26 quartet we know of, only 11 were published during his lifetime, the manuscripts of the rest lay unpublished until recently. Op.150 No.2 was his eighth published quartet and the second of a set of three from 1826 dedicated to the Prussian general Job von Witzleben. Our new edition is based on the original 1829 Simrock publication in Bonn.
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