should never make the mistake of thinking
that music we don’t know is music we
don’t need to know. Any thoughtful music
lover will know the truth of this statement,
which applies to Rheinberger and many
other composers besides.
was a prolific composer, as shown by
the opus numbers behind the two main
works on the twelfth and presumably
final edition of his complete organ
music. The programme combines two (or
possibly three) large-scale major works
with a series of unpublished miniatures.
In addition to the sonatas the Singmesse,
twelve minutes long across a sequence
of nine short movements, is more than
a trifle. Nor is it a major achievement,
however, but rather a sequence of short
chorale preludes that was discovered
posthumously by Alexander Pointner.
It may have been Rheinberger’s very
last composition, and it is undoubtedly
accomplished, but as a complete piece
the whole thing feels less than the
sum of the parts. Better perhaps just
to play a movement or two separately.
Gabriel Rheinberger had an unusually
successful career spanning more than
forty-five years, completing nearly
two hundred published compositions.
He built an illustrious reputation as
a virtuoso pianist and organist, and
became a distinguished teacher of composition
as well as the organ. Although he was
born in Lichtenstein, he spent nearly
his whole career in Munich. spending
33 years as Professor of Counterpoint
and Organ at the Royal School of Music.
His students included Engelbert Humperdinck,
Wolf-Ferrari, Furtwängler, and
the Americans George Chadwick and Horatio
Parker (the teacher of Charles Ives).
had many of the same aesthetic priorities
as, for example, Brahms, preferring
carefully crafted quasi-classical structures.
Therefore the large-scale instrumental
sonata appealed to him, and he wrote
twenty such pieces for the organ. These
two, Nos. 19 and 20 in the canon, were
composed during his final years. They
are strong pieces, the individual movements
building to effect a cogent and balanced
sound generated is big and bold, and
the opening of the G minor Sonata, which
opens this programme, is the ideal testing
point for the new listener. But the
range is wider than easy generalizations
might suggest, and in the finale the
contrast of a thoughtful slow introduction
and Con moto continuation makes for
a highly effective movement.
Sonata No. 20 is more ambitious still
adding an extra movement (to make four)
with central Intermezzo and Pastorale.
These titles tell their own tale, and
if the outer movements are more imposing,
these slighter and more delicate contrasts
do delight the ear. Although Rheinberger
is not a Brahms or a Wagner is talent
is a worthy one, and on this evidence
his music clamours to be heard.
MDG sound does justice both to the composer
and to the splendid playing of Rudolf
Innig. The sound of the Zürich
organ is impressively rich, but atmospheric
whenever restraint is required. For
the discerning listener this disc is