Josef Rheinberger (composer) deserves better!

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Lance
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Josef Rheinberger (composer) deserves better!

Post by Lance » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:23 pm

In sorting books, CDs, and trying to clean up a studio here that looks like a cyclone went through it, it was a good time to listen (still rather intently) to music I don't know well. I turned to Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) who was one of the most respected composers of his time. I have many works by Rheinberger. Some I have not enjoyed very much, such as his solo organ works. His organ concertos, however, are sublime (Biggs and Spang-Hanssen have made superb recordings of the concertos), as is much of his chamber music and solo piano works. CPO, Classico [Scandinavian Classics] and Naxos have issued a lot of Rheinberger's works. His cantata, The Star of Bethlehem, is one of his better known works (as recorded by EMI). Pompa-Baldi made a superlative recording on Centaur of three piano sonatas that I thought were outstanding. Barry Tuckwell recorded a horn sonata for ABC-Australia that is worth hearing. No less a great pianist than Jorge Bolet recorded Rheinberger's piano concerto (Gensis). Signum has also issued a disc of songs/duets with piano that offers rare listening of another kind from the era of Robert Schumann. How inspired the composers were from this period ... it seems almost endless.

Today, I heard two orchestral works by Rheinberger that seem to get no press let alone performances of recordings. Signum (Germany) issued in 1994 an outstanding disc [X50-00, 64:22, DDD] containing {1} Wallenstein - Symphonic Tone Painting in D Minor for Large Orchestra, Op. 10 coupled with {2} Prelude to The Seven Ravens. These are performed by the Frankfurt (Oder) Philharmonic Orchestra (founded in 1971), and conducted by Nikos Athinäos - a superb orchestra very well recorded.

Rheinberger's Wallenstein Symphony may not be an entirely original idea since another composer, Bedrich Smetana, also wrote an orchestral work around the same time entitled Wallenstein's Camp. The work was once named by Hermann Kretzschlmar as (according to the excellent notes) "one of the most substantial program symphonies of the conciliatory tendency." Weighing in at about 55 minutes for the entire work, it is broken into four sections: Prelude, Thekla, Wallenstein's Camp, and finally, Wallenstein's Death. The key of D minor, alone, sets a certain tone to the work. The music is beautifully structured, indicating Rheinberger's outstanding tutelage. The composer began work on Wallenstein in 1866, aged 26 or 27, when the musical wheels were grinding away with the grandness of an acutely inspired mind through the opulence of Romantic poetry and paintings, not to mention music composed by Rheinberger's contemporaries. Still, he had a mind of his own and was not afraid to expose it.

Poor Rheinberger, he died in November 1901 just who weeks before his retirement, and as Harald Wanger notes, "Munich lost one of its most distinguished musical represenatives." After the composer's death, more and more of his music (oddly) fell into oblivion most likely due to a new century and new kinds of music-making. Rheinberger's should have survived much longer than it did.

The other work is the the Prelude to his opera, The Seven Ravens, inspired by paintings on the fairy tale of the same name by Moritz von Schwind. Usually Engelbert Humperdinck is credited with writing the first German fairy tale opera, but Rheinberger actually had that master beat. Rheinberger felt that the prelude could stand on its own two feet and be heard in orchestral concerts. (The opera has gone on to oblivion.) This is an eminently listenable work full of rich ideas and sonorities, entirely enjoyable and appealing especially if you are devoted to music from the Romantic period.

When you get this kind of post from moi, you know I have been greatly satisfied with the music, and thus I have to share some of this enthusiasm.

Dig this disc up if you can. You will find it fascinating listening.
Lance G. Hill
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Corlyss_D
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Re: Josef Rheinberger (composer) deserves better!

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:10 am

Lance wrote:Dig this disc up if you can. You will find it fascinating listening.
Does it have any organ music in it?
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jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:20 am

I posted on the astounding difference between his pretty good organ concertos and his dreadful solo organ works last summer after the Organ Historical Society Convention in Saratoga. (It was in Indianapolis this year so I passed.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:46 am

jbuck919 wrote:I posted on the astounding difference between his pretty good organ concertos and his dreadful solo organ works last summer after the Organ Historical Society Convention in Saratoga. (It was in Indianapolis this year so I passed.)
Don't spose you have a copy lying about you could tantalize us with?
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Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:01 am

Lance:

You're right. Rheinberger's Wallenstein is a fine work - beautifully orchestrated and a joy to hear.

I'd recommend, also, his Florentine Symphony - a sort of well-fed sequel to Mendelssohn's Italian. It's on a Carus disc.

And, a simply exquisite CD is the Hyperion recording of Rheinberger's music for Organ, Violin and Cello. I always marvel at the interplay between the strings and the organ. Beautiful stuff.

And, for those who think of Rheinberger primarily as an organ grinder - give some of his chamber works a listen. The Thorofon label has a lot of them and they are attractive, fully-romantic pieces.

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Post by walboi » Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:53 pm

Not to long ago I played a record with his Sonatas for Violin and Organ on the Naxos label, which was awesome to say the least.

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Post by karlhenning » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:03 pm

Harry, I knew you'd be all over this thread! :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
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walboi
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Post by walboi » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:56 pm

karlhenning wrote:Harry, I knew you'd be all over this thread! :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
Well you know me right? :lol:

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