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Ferdinand Ries

Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2




Sleeve notes in English and German


May 2024

Catalogue No.:
ODE 1443-2


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Track listing

Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 23 (1809)
I. Adagio - Allegro molto vivace

II. Marche funebre

III. Menuetto. Moderato - Trio

IV. Finale. Allegro

Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 80 (1814)
I. Allegro ma non troppo

II. Andantino

III. Menuetto. Allegretto - Trio

IV. Finale. Allegro ma non troppo

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Complete description

First volume in a new cycle by Tapiola Sinfonietta under Janne Nisonen presenting the symphonies of Ferdinand Ries (1784–1838), Beethoven’s only acknowledged composition pupil, close friend and biographer. Often remembered in music history as Beethoven’s ‘right hand’, these new recordings by the Tapiola Sinfonietta are showcasing a remarkable and talented early 19th century symphonist with a voice of his own.


When Ferdinand Ries began composing his First Symphony in 1809, he was already an experienced composer of instrumental music. However, Ries’s admiration for Beethoven presented him with an unusually stern challenge: how could he compose works of similar musical richness and complexity yet allow his own voice as a composer to be heard? Over the course of the next thirty years, Ries wrestled with this problem and, for the most part, succeeded. Of course, Beethoven’s influence is to be heard in many of Ries’s works, but more often than not in a subliminal way. But how could Ries reasonably ignore the influence of the greatest composer of the age any more than Beethoven himself could have ignored the powerful influence of Haydn and Mozart at the outset of his career? Like Beethoven before him, Ries had delayed writing a symphony until he felt confident enough of his experience and technique to compose a work that would bear comparison with the masterpieces of Haydn and Mozart and, in his case, Beethoven himself. These works, among others, had precipitated a dramatic shift in musical aesthetics in the late eighteenth century in which instrumental music came to be regarded as the highest form of music. The earliest performance of record of Ries’s First Symphony took place in 1812 when the orchestra of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig played the work in a concert. Ries also included two movements of the symphony in a concert he presented in Stockholm on 14 March 1813. Ries might have been influenced by Beethoven’s choice of a funeral march for the slow movement of his symphony, but he does not adopt the Beethovenian Scherzo for the third movement, preferring instead the more conventional Minuet and Trio.


Ries’s Symphony in C minor, Op. 80, although published second, was actually the third of his symphonies to be composed. It was premiered in 1814 and is the symphony which Ries dedicated to Beethoven. The Symphony is unified by a concentration on thematic and harmonic connections across the four movements. The symphony also has a strong sense of kinship with its two predecessors in its use of chromatic lines to approach important structural landmarks, something not encountered in Beethoven’s symphonies as Robinson points out. Ries’ work was compared to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and while there are techniques familiar to us from the works of Beethoven, they also have their roots in the Sturm und Drang style of Haydn, Wanhal and other prominent eighteenth-century symphonists.


The Tapiola Sinfonietta has established itself as Finland’s premier chamber orchestra. Founded as the Espoo City Orchestra in 1987, it currently has 44 members. The orchestra is known for its adventurous repertoire planning and has been widely acclaimed for nuanced performances across a wide range of eras and styles. The Tapiola Sinfonietta often performs without a conductor, placing an emphasis on ensemble playing and the personal responsibility of each musician. The Tapiola Sinfonietta appears regularly at music festivals in Finland, and tours abroad have boosted its international reputation along with its award-winning discography.


Janne Nisonen is one of Finland’s most versatile and sought after musicians. Nisonen is known especially for his stylish performances of classical and early romantic repertoire as well as a brave proponent of contemporary music. He is a descendant of folk musicians, and there is a certain full-blooded and gritty character in his musicianship. Among other orchestras, Nisonen has conducted the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Tampere Filharmonia, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Avanti!, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra. Nisonen has recorded exclusively for Ondine.

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