Ferdinand Ries

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Ferdinand Ries

Ferdinand Ries (28 November 1784 (baptised) – 13 January 1838) was a German composer. Ries was a friend, pupil and secretary of Ludwig van Beethoven. He composed eight symphonies, a violin concerto, eight piano concertos and numerous other works in many genres, including 26 string quartets. In 1838 he published a collection of reminiscences of his teacher Beethoven, co-written with Franz Wegeler. The symphonies, some chamber works—most of them with piano— his violin concerto and his piano concertos have been recorded, demonstrating a style which is, unsurprising due to his connection to Beethoven, somewhere between those of the Classical and early Romantic eras.


Ries was born into a musical family of Bonn. His grandfather, Johann Ries (1723–1784), was appointed court trumpeter to the Elector of Cologne at Bonn.

The French dissolved the Electoral court of Bonn and disbanded its orchestra, but in the early months of 1803 the penniless Ries managed to reach Vienna, with a letter of introduction to Beethoven, who had received some early instruction at Bonn from Ries's father, Franz Anton Ries. Beethoven took great care of the young man, teaching him piano, sending him to Albrechtsberger for harmony and composition and securing for him positions as piano tutor in aristocratic households in Baden and Silesia. Ries made his public debut as a pianist in July 1804, playing Beethoven's C minor concerto, Op. 37, with his own cadenza, to glowing reviews.

Ries worked for Beethoven as secretary and copyist, winning Beethoven's confidence in negotiations with publishers and becoming a fast friend. One of the most famous stories told about Ries is connected with the first rehearsal of the Eroica Symphony, when Ries, during the performance, mistakenly believed that the horn player had come in too early and said so, aloud—infuriating Beethoven.[a]

Ries feared conscription in the occupying French army (though he was blind in one eye) and fled Vienna in September 1805. He spent two years in Paris before returning to Vienna, then concertized his way about Europe, landing in London in 1813. There he spent the next eleven years. Johann Peter Salomon, the great friend and patron of Haydn— who had formerly played with Franz Anton Ries in the court orchestra at Bonn—included Ries regularly in his Philharmonic concert series,[b] where a review praised his "romantic wildness".

During these London years he never lost touch with Beethoven and had a role in the London publications of many works of Beethoven after the peace of 1815, including the 1822 commission from the Philharmonic Society that resulted in the Choral Symphony.

In 1824 Ries retired to Germany with his English wife, Harriet Mangeon, but returned to musical life in Frankfurt am Main as composer and conductor. In 1834 he was appointed head of the city orchestra and Singakademie in Aachen, for whom he wrote two oratorios, Der Sieg des Glaubens (1829) and Die Könige in Israel (1837), both of which have been recorded. In addition, he was festival director of the Lower Rhenish Music Festival eight times - between 1824 and 1837. He died at Frankfurt am Main, aged 53.

Cecil Hill wrote a scholarly thematic catalog, listed below, of this composer's works: for each work he provided incipits (opening themes) for each movement, dedications, known early reviews, and known dates of composition.

While one of the few widely circulated recordings of Ries's music was for some time that of his third piano concerto, all of his symphonies, the other concertos, and a number of chamber works are now available on compact disc and his surviving music for piano and orchestra and chamber works are the focus of ongoing projects on various record labels as well.

Selected list of works[edit]


  • Die Räuberbraut, opera in three acts op. 156 (1827/28; 1830/31)
  • Liska, oder die Hexe von Gyllensteen, opera in two acts op. 164 (1831); premiered in London as The Sorceress
  • Die Nacht auf dem Libanon, Romantische Oper in three acts WoO. 51 (1834–38)


  • Die Zigeunerin, melodrama in two acts WoO. 53 (1835)


  • No. 1 in D major, op. 23 (1809)
  • No. 2 in C minor, op. 80 (1814)
  • No. 3 in E flat major, op. 90 (1816)
  • No. 4 in F major, op. 110 (1818)
  • No. 5 in D minor, op. 112 (1813)
  • an unpublished symphony in E flat major, WoO. 30 (1822)[c]
  • No. 6 in D major, op. 146 (1822, last movement revised in 1826)
  • No. 7 in A minor, op. 181 (1835)


  • Concerto for 2 Horns in E flat major WoO. 19 (1811)
  • Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra in E minor op. 24 (1810)
  • Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in E flat major op. 42 (1808)
  • Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra in C sharp minor, op. 55 (1812)
  • Concerto No. 4 for Piano and Orchestra in C minor, op. 115 (1809, pub. 1823)
  • Concerto No. 5 for Piano and Orchestra in D major, op. 120 'Concerto Pastoral' (c.1816, pub. 1823)
  • Concerto No. 6 for Piano and Orchestra in C major, op. 123 (1806, pub. 1824)
  • Concerto No. 7 for Piano and Orchestra in A minor, op. 132 'Abschieds-Concert von England' (1823)
  • Concerto No. 8 for Piano and Orchestra in A flat major, op. 151 'Gruss an den Rhein' (1826)
  • Concerto No. 9 for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, op. 177 (1832/33)

(Note that, unusually, Ries and/or his publishers did not separate the numbering scheme of his violin concerto from his piano concertos; thus, there is no "Piano Concerto No. 1".)

Other works for piano and orchestra[edit]

  • Swedish National Airs with Variations, op. 52 (1812)
  • Grand Variations on 'Rule, Britannia', op. 116 (1817)
  • Introduction et Variations Brillantes, op. 170 (sometime between 1813 and 1824, pub. 1832)
  • Rondeau brillant, op. 144 (1825)
  • Introduction and Polonaise, op. 174 (1833)
  • Introduction et Rondeau Brillant, WoO. 54 (1835)
  • Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, WoO. 88 (1836, lost)


  • Der Sieg des Glaubens, op. 157 (1829)
  • Die Könige in Israel, op. 186 (1837)

Chamber music[edit]

  • Cello Sonata, WoO. 2 (1799)
  • String Quartet in F minor, WoO. 48 (1833–35)
  • Nocturne for Wind Sextet, WoO. 50 (Flute, 2 Clarinets, Horn, 2 Bassoons ,1834)
  • Nocturne for Wind Sextet, WoO. 60 (Flute, 2 Clarinets, Horn, 2 Bassoons ,1836)
  • Octet in F major, op. 12 (1808)
  • Piano Quartet in F minor, op. 13 (1809)
  • Piano Trio in E flat major, op. 2
  • Piano Trio in C minor, op. 143
  • Cello Sonata in A major, op. 21
  • Introduction and a Russian Dance for the Piano Forte and Violoncello in E flat major, op. 113/1 (1823)
  • Romance for cello & pianoforte in G major (arrangement of the 2nd mvt. of piano sonata, op. 86/2) (1819)
  • Clarinet Trio in B flat major, op. 28 (1809)
  • Clarinet Sonata in G minor, op. 29 (1808)
  • 3 Violin Sonatas, op. 30 (1811)
  • Grand Septuor in E flat major for piano, clarinet, 2 horns, violin, cello and double bass, op. 25 (1812)
  • Horn Sonata in F major, op. 34 (1811)
  • 3 String Quartets, op. 70 (1812, rewritten 1815)
  • Grand Sextuor for 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass & piano in C major, Op.100
  • Cello Sonata in G minor, op. 125
  • Grand Otetto in A flat major for piano, violin, viola, clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and double bass, op. 128 (1816, pub. 1831)
  • Flute Quartets Nos. 1-3, op. 145
  • Flute Sonata in G major, op.87
  • Variations on a Portuguese Hymn for piano and flute, op. 152/1 (1826)
  • Flute Sonata in E-flat major, 'Sonate sentimentale', op. 169 (1814)
  • Introduction & Polonaice for piano and flute, op. 119
  • Violin Sonata in F Major, op. 8, no. 1
  • Violin Sonata in C Major, op. 8, no. 2
  • Violin Sonata in F Minor, op. 19 (1810)

Piano music[edit]

  • Piano Sonata in C major, op. 1 no. 1 (1806)
  • Piano Sonata in A minor, op. 1 no. 2 (1803-4)
  • 2 Piano Sonatinas, op. 5
  • Grande Sonate in D major, op. 9 no. 1
  • Grande Sonata Fantaisie in F sharp minor, 'L'Infortune' op. 26
  • 2 Piano Sonatas, op.11
  • Piano Sonata in A minor op.45


  1. ^ Told by Ries himself in his Biographical Reminiscences of Beethoven, co-authored with Wegeler. See: Ries, Ferdinand; Wegeler, Franz Gerhard; Kalischer, Alfred Christlieb (1906). Biographische notizen über Ludwig van Beethoven. p. 94.  (German).
  2. ^ Ries debuted 14 March 1814.
  3. ^ Hill (1982): xxviii asserts this work was written before op. 146
  • Hill, Cecil. Ferdinand Ries: A Thematic Catalogue. Armidale, NSW: University of New England. 1977. ISBN 0-85834-156-5. Online
  • Hill, Cecil, Ferdinand Ries. A Study and Addenda. Armidale, NSW: University of New England. 1982 Online
  • Hill, Cecil. "Ferdinand Ries" in The Symphony: Ferdinand Ries London: Garland Publishing (1982)
  • Ries, Ferdinand. Beethoven Remembered: The Biographical Notes of Franz Wegeler and Ferdinand Ries (translated from the German.) Arlington, VA: Great Ocean Publishers. 1987. ISBN 0-915556-15-4.
  • Zanden, Jos van der. 'Ferdinand Ries in Vienna. New Perspectives on the Notizen', in: The Beethoven Journal, 2004.
  • Jin-Ah Kim, Bert Hagels (ed.), Über / About Ries, Vol. 1 [ger. / eng.], Berlin 2012 (includes Michael Schwalb, "Basecamp for the Compositional Summit Ascent. Ferdinand Ries as a romantic Manqué by Choice")
  • Jin-Ah Kim, Bert Hagels (ed.), Über / About Ries, Vol. 2 [ger. / eng.], Berlin 2013 (includes an interview with Howard Griffiths; Bert Hagels, "Ries's last journey and 'The Night on Lebanon'")

External links[edit]