Bülow once said of Rheinberger that he is ‘a truly
ideal teacher of composition, unrivalled in the whole of Germany and
beyond in skill, refinement and devotion to his subject’. This is a
fair account for Rheinberger, whose famous students were Kroyer, Thuille
and Furtwängler among many others.
His work derives from the late baroque era as well
as the early romantic period. As the New Grove Dictionary says ‘the
strength of his works, lies in the indisputable mastery and the planned
coherence of his compositional style, which is imbued with the spirit
of polyphonic thinking rather than compelling inventiveness or vivid
conception’. He was a conservative who did not follow the current musical
developments of his time. However his work retains a certain freshness
all its own.
The twenty organ sonatas are among his most outstanding
works. They are full of musical and structural ideas. The Sonata No.13,
op.161, was composed in 1889, whereas the Twelve Character Pieces for
organ op.156 were composed one year earlier. In the booklet it is written
that these pieces were ‘not strongly marked by styling typical of the
organ’. Even though such was the case, the critics of the time referred
to it as ‘a valuable present for organists; acquaintance with it brings
us true joy. The content of the work offers more than … the title indicates,
… not only [characterful] music but also music that is full of substance,
well-felt, and finely crafted, music that has issued forth from heart
and mind instead of being written by the study lamp’.
The Kuhn organ chosen for this recording is appropriate
for this music. Its case is quite imaginative, its reeds sound powerful,
the flute tones are warm and the pedal department has some nice string
stops combined with powerful 32’, 16’ and 8’ principals. It is an organ
that, as Innig mentions in the booklet, ‘reflects the influence of the
French symphonic school of organ building’.
Unfortunately Innig’s chosen registrations do not work
consistently - sometimes strangely at odds with the organ and the music.
The musical effects produced by the frequent use of mixtures and stops
with high pitches do not have the appropriate warm colour for the music.
Most of the time the pedal line sounds unclear due to the fact that
Innig uses the manual couplers. The manuals’ lines sound metallic, without
any depth and feeling of fullness. Variety of sound is missing as is
any hint of willingness to explore the organ. Thus the listener does
not gain a very clear idea of how the organ sounds. Even if this is
the case, the engineers could still work at this aspect and correct
the bass and treble balance in order to gain a more pleasing result.
An example is heard at No. 6 - Romanze, where the left hand is vaguely
heard in the background. Nevertheless, Innig has a very good sense of
expressiveness and his use of rubato is well handled. He gives the appropriate
space to the acoustics and in general his performances, not taking into
account his registrations, are very well performed.
The booklet is attractively presented, in three languages,
giving all the necessary information about the composer, the music and
the organ specification. The chosen organ registrations that are written
in the booklet seem to be incomplete sometimes or not edited correctly
(i.e. No.2 - Canzone).