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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Music for Strings.
Serenade in G minor for string orchestra;
Twelve Tone Poems for string orchestra;
Children’s Symphony, Op. 239

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin/Misha Rachlevsky
Recorded in the Great Gall of Moscow Conservatory, September 2000.
CLAVES CD 50-2107 [67.38]

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Little if any of Reinecke’s extensive output is likely to be remembered today. He pursued a highly successful career as a piano virtuoso, composer and teacher in Scandinavia and Paris, and at the Cologne and Leipzig Conservatories. He became a much-respected director and chief conductor at the latter. A prolific composer as well as a writer of composer biographies and theoretical essays he was named by the German musicologist Hugo Riemann as "the most extraordinary personality from Leipzig’s world of music", Reinecke was a minor representative of the famous "Leipzig school" of composers that included Mendelssohn, and among his Leipzig students were Grieg, Sullivan, and Weingartner. His works are solidly based on classical forms and, though occasionally innovative, might, even in his own day, have been considered somewhat conventional in style. Though the music is melodious and well-constructed, it is, perhaps, not surprising that it has failed to survive in the status of such contemporaries as Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.

The six-movement Serenade could fairly be called "light music" (which ought not to suggest that it is uninteresting music) or, maybe less fairly, "teashop music". The alternation of short playful/soulful movements make for easy listening; but, compared with, say, Elgar’s or Eric Coates’ excursions into this genre, the word that comes more readily to mind is "insipid".

The twelve Tonbilder (tone poems), assembled late in life from earlier compositions, are really little more than a set of "character" pieces, mostly short a mere two or three minutes and despite their fancy titles could easily be played (as they are here) as a suite for string orchestra. The Children’s Symphony is, if its opus number is anything to go by, a fairly mature work, and turns out to be a jolly romp full (as is Haydn’s "Toy" Symphony) of cuckoo calls, whistles, tin drums and the like. To be perfectly honest I found it the most engaging work on this disk.

The Kremlin players enter into the spirit of the thing, but even their indulgent vibrato and persistent portamento do not succeed in making this disc more than a charming curiosity.


Roy D. Brewer


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