was born in the Principality of Liechtenstein
in 1839, the son of the Treasurer to
the Prince. Rheinberger had his first
organ lessons at the age of five and
two years later served as organist at
Vaduz, at which time he also made his
first attempts at composition. Rheinberger
had a most successful and productive
career which spanned more than 45 years,
composing almost 200 published works.
Early in his career during his three
years of formal study at the Munich
Conservatory, Rheinberger showed remarkable
ability both as a virtuoso pianist and
organist and as a master of counterpoint
Classed by many as
the finest in Germany, Rheinberger became
a most sought-after teacher of composition
as well as the organ and established
himself as an eminent academic. When
the present Conservatory was founded
in Munich, Rheinberger was appointed
to Professorships of Organ and then
Composition, posts he held from 1867
until death in 1901. Enjoying the loftiest
reputation as a teacher, Rheinberger’s
pupils included the distinguished names:
Humperdinck, Wolf-Ferrari and Furtwängler.
The Munich Conservatory also bestowed
upon Rheinberger the distinguished title
of "Royal Professor".
He composed in most
genres, however it is rare to hear much
of his output other than his compositions
for the organ. In fact his twenty organ
sonatas are remarkable and considered
by the author of his entry in Grove's
Music Dictionary to be "undoubtedly
the most valuable addition to organ
music since the time of Mendelssohn.
They are characterized by a happy blending
of the modern romantic spirit with masterly
counterpoint and dignified organ style".
Although large and
bold works the Sonata No. 12 in D
flat major from 1888 and the Sonata
No. 13 in E flat major from 1890
are good examples of how Rheinberger
avoids the tendency of his contemporaries
Franck, Widor, Vierne et al to
create often dense, even opaque textures.
Rheinberger is known for writing with
clean lines and neat textures which
can be heard to excellent effect in
numbers six to twelve of the Twelve
Trios that form opus 189 from 1897.
Here we hear how he intimately writes
his finely crafted works with finely
balanced harmonic development and an
innate sense of melody so subtly employed.
Wolfgang Rubsam has
impeccable credentials and is currently
Professor at the Hochschule des Saarlandes
für Musik und Theater in Saarbrücken,
Germany. He has been a prolific recording
artist for the Naxos label in particular
of which this release is the fifth volume
of the organ works of Rheinberger. I
doubt that this composer would have
known the Rieger-Sauer Organ (The Great
Organ) of Fulda Cathedral but his music
sounds eminently suited to it and, ably
assisted by Wolfgang Rubsam, makes a
strong impression here. Professor Rubsam
gives successful and robust interpretations,
if somewhat sober in feeling.
The recorded sound
on this Naxos release is realistic but
for my taste would have benefited from
a slightly brighter and clearer sound.
The booklet notes by Keith Anderson
on the composer and his works are as
usual detailed and informative. There
is considerable technical detail about
specifications of the organ but nothing
of its history, which is a shame.
An enjoyable recording
for lovers of organ works from the Romantic
period, works that may need several
plays before they reveal their treasures
to the listener.