Ferdinand Ries, classical music composer

Ferdinand Ries image

Ferdinand Ries


Though his fame today may rest largely on the fact that he was friend, secretary, copyist and pupil of Beethoven, Ferdinand Ries was a prolific and popular composer during the early 19th century. Born into a musical family in Bonn and baptized on November 28, 1784, he was the eldest son of Franz Anton, an exceptional musician in his own right. Considered a prodigy on the violin during his childhood, Franz Anton was for a time Beethoven's teacher, and was honored as such when a statue to the great composers was erected in 1845. He gave his son his first music lessons on piano and violin. Ferdinand excelled quickly in music and expected to be appointed to the Elector's orchestra. However, when the invading French disbanded the Electoral court of Bonn, and along with it its orchestra, he was forced to pursue other paths which led him to Arnsberg and Munich.

After years of hard work and living frugally, Ries was finally able to make his way to Vienna. Beethoven took the young man under his wing, giving him further lessons on the piano and recommended him to Johann Georg Albechtsberger for composition lessons. He also secured positions for him as pianists to aristocratic families. Beethoven and Ries became close friends which, despite a temporary falling out in 1808, lasted through the former's death. In July of 1804, Ries made his public debut to great acclaim performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor.

Fearing conscription by the French army, Ries fled Vienna in 1805, eventually making his way to Paris. These years were not kind for Ries and in 1808 he returned to Vienna. The following year he embarked on a lucrative four year concert tour of Europe that took him through Northern Germany, Scandinavia, Russia and ultimately to England. When he reached London in 1813, he met the impresario, and friend and patron of Haydn, J. P. Salomon, who arranged his first performance with the Philharmonic. Ries would remain in London for the next eleven years. Their friendship restored, he stayed in contact with Beethoven and was instrumental in securing in the 1822 commission from the Philharmonic Society that resulted in the creation of the Choral Symphony.

In 1824, Ries left England to return to his native Germany. Despite being retired, he continued to take an active role in musical life, accepting a position as head of the orchestra in Frankfurt am Main and conductor of the Singakademie in Aachen. He also served as the director of the Lower Rhenish Music Festival numerous times between 1824 and 1837 before passing away on January 13, 1838.

A prolific composer, Ries left behind eight symphonies and piano concertos, a violin concerto and numerous chamber works. His music was popular in London during his time there but was not particularly original. Even Beethoven, as fond of the young man as he was, rather bluntly stated on one occasion that his music was took imitative of his own. Though today recognized as only a minor composer of the early 19th century, more professional recordings of Ries's works have become available in recent years.

Composer Title Date Action
Ferdinand Ries Rondo, Op. 158 06/15/2010 Play Add to playlist