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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Mixed Results For Beethoven’s Contemporaries Ries & Clement In Two New Releases

By Norman Lebrecht on June 7, 2024

Image from the cover of Franz Clement: Solo Violin Works with Haoli Lin (Courtesy of Naxos Records)
Vienna Viewed from the Belvedere Palace (1759/60) by Bernardo Bellotto; Image from the cover of Franz Clement: Solo Violin Works with Haoli Lin (Courtesy of Naxos Records)

Ferdinand Ries: Symphonies Nos. 1&2 (Ondine)
Franz Clement: Solo Violin Works (Naxos)

★★★★☆/★★☆☆☆

🎧 Apple | Apple |

Ries and Clement were the musicians closest to Beethoven. Ries, who knew Beethoven from Bonn, acted as his secretary before moving to London where he was active in the Philharmonic Society that commissioned Beethoven’s ninth symphony.

Clement, for whom Beethoven composed his violin concerto, was displaced as concertmaster for the premiere of the ninth symphony. Although neither man achieved posterity, it is interesting to see how much of Beethoven rubbed off into their works.

In Ries’s case, an awful lot. The opening movement of his first symphony plays around with a theme from the violin concerto, while the second movement steals wantonly from the Eroica, of which Ries was the copyist. Ries’s thefts, though shameless, are never less than proficient.

His second symphony, composed in London in 1813, imitates Haydn, whom the English adored. But halfway into the second minute, Ries is back ransacking the Eroica with both hands like a kid let loose in a sweet shop. The Tapiola Sinfonietta, conductor Janne Nisonen, play with vim, vigour and a fleeting smile.

Clement’s caprices and variations sound quite effortful in the hands of Haoli Lin, who first came to attention as a China National Violin Competition winner. His are largely first recordings, which relieves us of any need to compare. The music is dutiful, dull and disappointing. Clement had a party trick of playing the violin upside-down: that might have helped. Beethoven dismissed one of his sets as ‘poor stuff… monotonous.’ I did, however, enjoy Clementi’s variations on a march from an opera by Salieri with an unmentionable racial title.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, subscribe to Slippedisc.com.

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