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Joseph Gabriel RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Mass in A major, ‘Missa in Nativitate Domini’ for three-part chorus and organ, op.126 (1881)
Mass in F, for four-part chorus and organ, op.190 (1898)
Kleiner und leichter Messgesang, op. 62 (‘Missa puerorum’ edition of 1903)
Missa Brevis in F major, ‘Missa in honorem Sanctissimae Trinitatis’ for unaccompanied chorus op.117 (1880)
The Choirs of Blackburn Cathedral/Richard Tanner
Greg Morris (organ)
Recorded in Blackburn Cathedral, England, 9-15 February 2001

Lammas Records

118 The Mount
York YO24 1AS

Romantic composer Joseph Rheinberger was born in the Principality of Liechtenstein in 1839, the son of the Treasurer to the Crown Prince. A child prodigy, Rheinberger had his first organ lessons at the age of five and two years later served as organist at Vaduz church, at which time he also made his first attempts at composition. He had a most successful and highly productive career which spanned more than 45 years, composing almost 200 published works. Early during his three years of formal study at the Munich Conservatory, he showed remarkable ability both as a virtuoso pianist/organist and as a master of counterpoint and fugue.

He was classed by many as the finest composer in Germany and attracted pupils from all over Europe and the USA. He became a most sought-after teacher of composition as well as the organ and established himself as an eminent music theorist. 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 him the distinguished title of ‘Royal Professor’.

He wrote in a wide variety of genres including symphonies and the opera, with a large proportion of his works composed for the voice; a substantial number of which were for liturgical use. Biographer J. Weston Nicholl writes favourably of Rheinberger’s choral works stating, "His twelve Masses, Stabat Mater, De Profundis and many other examples of church music are marked by earnestness and deep religious feeling." It is however rare to hear much of his output other than the compositions for organ of which the twenty organ sonatas are regarded as being particularly important.

The Mass in A major, ‘Missa in Nativitate Domini’ for three-part chorus and organ, op.126 was composed in 1881 and is performed here by the spirited female voices of the Renaissance Singers. The name ‘Missa in Nativitate Domini’ was given to the work owing to having its first performance on Christmas Eve. This highly optimistic yet profoundly reverent score is performed with deep respect in a cleanly focused account by the Renaissance Singers.

Rheinberger achieved popular acclaim with his Mass in F, for four-part chorus and organ, op.190 which he composed towards the end of his life in 1898. The male voices of the Blackburn Cathedral perform the Mass in F with polish and style and substantial bite.

Rheinberger described his Kleiner und leichter Messgesang, op. 62 as leicht ausfurhbane (easy to perform) and composed the work extremely rapidly in 1871. The performance given here is of the ‘Missa puerorum’ which is the name given to a revised Turin edition of 1903. The girls choir of Blackburn Cathedral come across as an impressive team ably interpreting the melodic fluency and brimful variety of the work with considerable assurance and affection.

The buoyant and positive Missa Brevis in F major, ‘Missa in honorem Sanctissimae Trinitatis’ op.117 was composed in 1880. The score, which has been praised for its sheer quality of counterpoint writing, is the only work on the release without organ accompaniment. The men and boys of the Blackburn Cathedral choir in the Missa Brevis in F offer a splendidly characterful performance of considerable intensity and high on expression.

The naturally recorded sound is first class and the concise booklet notes from the organist Greg Morris are interesting and informative. Excellent preferences all-round from the Choirs of Blackburn Cathedral under the accomplished direction of Richard Tanner. This release is worthy of inclusion in any serious collection of choral music. A rewarding disc!

Michael Cookson

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