I was not too familiar with the name of Carl Reinecke
before receiving this release but I did remember that he
was the teacher of several composers that were well known
to me. These included, most notably: Max Bruch; Edvard Grieg;
Emil von Rezniček; Christian Sinding; Arthur Sullivan;
Charles Villiers Stanford; Leos Janácek; Frederick Delius;
Max Bruch; Edvard Grieg; Johan Svendsen; Isaac Albéniz and
Reinecke was born in the town of Altona on the River
Elbe, then an important harbour town in Denmark, but now
a district of the German city of Hamburg. The year of Reinecke’s
birth 1824 is significant in music history in that it is
same birth year as Bruckner and Smetana. I am pleased that
Naxos with this issue has provided me with opportunity to
hear three concertante scores from this versatile composer
who has experienced years of virtual neglect. It is also
gratifying that Naxos has chosen as soloists the renowned
French performers and conductors, flautist Patrick Gallois
and harpist Fabrice Pierre.
A quick check on Reinecke’s career revealed that he
was a child prodigy on the piano, also played the violin
and in addition to performing he began composing at an early
age. He embarked on his first concert tour in 1843 and three
years later was appointed as Pianist to the Danish Court,
where he remained until 1848. In 1860 he moved to Leipzig
in Germany, where he conducted the Gewandhaus concerts until
1895 and taught composition at the Conservatory until 1902.
One of his most notable conducting accomplishments came in
1869 when he was entrusted with the first performance of
Brahms’s German Requiem.
Reinecke’s international career as conductor, accompanist,
teacher and composer gave him an esteemed reputation in his
day that was in some ways on the same level as that of Robert
Schumann and Franz Liszt. He was a prolific composer writing
over three hundred works in most genres. In addition to many
piano works and much chamber music I noticed three symphonies;
four piano concertos, which is not surprising owing to his
prowess on the instrument, and also grand and comic operas.
He was exceptionally well connected having met Franz Liszt;
Hector Berlioz; Felix Mendelssohn; Robert and Clara Schumann;
Niels Gade; Ferdinand Hiller and Johannes Brahms.
For many years the Reinecke works that were most likely
to be encountered were the Flute Sonata in E major,
Op. 167 ‘Undine’ and his Flute Concerto
in D major, Op. 283 but now a variety of his scores have
been recorded joining the ever-expanding record catalogues.
The opening work on this release is the Harp Concerto,
Op. 182. Composed by Reinecke in 1884 and cast in three movements
it is scored for harp with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets,
bassoons, trumpets and four French horns, timpani and strings.
The soloist is Fabrice Pierre who acquits himself superbly.
In every respect his performance feels well nigh perfect.
He gives a happy and carefree reading of the opening movement allegro
moderato where Reinecke could easily have been reminiscing
about a walking expedition in the Bavarian mountains. In
Pierre’s hands the glorious adagio is lyrical and
heartfelt. In addition to the harp part there is considerable
employment given to the strings in this movement. The expert
soloist provides a swift pace in the scherzo-finale, convincingly
and confidently drawing the listener into Reinecke’s sound
world. The dancing figures between 3.45-4.04 reminded me
of a Mendelssohnian world of fairytale enchantment. Throughout
the score orchestra and conductor provide the soloist with
thoroughly sympathetic support.
I am extremely pleased with this Naxos account, however,
I have been hearing excellent reports of advance copies of
a forthcoming rival version of the Harp Concerto which
may be worth investigating. The performers are harpists Emmanuel
Ceysson and Xavier de Maistre with the Rheinland-Pfalz State
Philharmonic Orchestra/Hannu Lintu on the Swiss label Claves
CD 50-2607. The coupling is Albert Zabel’s Concerto
for Harp and Orchestra in C Minor, Op. 35 and Parish-Alvars’s Concerto
for 2 Harps and Orchestra in D Minor, Op. 91.
The three movement Flute Concerto, Op. 283 dates
from 1908 and is one of Reinecke’s final compositions. Reinecke
orchestrated the concerto for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets,
bassoons, trumpets, four French horns, timpani, assorted
percussion and strings. We are told in the accompanying notes
that, “There exist various discrepancies between the orchestral
and solo scores of this work. The version recorded on this
CD is Patrick Gallois’ own adaptation, which has its basis
in both versions.”
Probably composed in 1908 the Ballade for flute and
orchestra, Op. 288 is another late work. In Keith Anderson’s
view the single movement score, “uses a title that suggests,
at least, literary content.” For these performances
of the Flute Concerto and the Ballade the
soloist and conductor change places from the opening work,
with Patrick Gallois now as flute soloist.
The flute is extremely busy in the opening movement
of the Flute Concerto where Gallois is controlled
and thoughtful. In this allegro movement in addition
to the harp part Reinecke has written a significant role
for the brass. The slow movement is generally relaxed with
the expressive Gallois almost continually employed, the flute
line floating gracefully through the often dense orchestration.
In the finale: moderato, a movement with considerable
virtuoso display, the soloist Gallois is excitable and high-spirited
taking the demands easily in his stride. With the ten minute
long Ballade for flute and orchestra Gallois provides
a sulky and despondent mood in Reinecke’s robust and richly
dark orchestral textures. I was impressed with the way Gallois,
at point 3:22, expertly switches the atmosphere to one of
spirited child-like excitement. In both the Flute Concerto and
the Ballade Gallois is given lively and detailed support
orchestra and conductor.
The recorded sound from the Örebro Concert Hall in Sweden
is first class and I was especially pleased by the clarity
and balance provided by Naxos engineer Sean Lewis. The annotation
from Keith Anderson is to a high standard, reasonably concise
and highly informative. The playing time of fifty-five minutes
is not over-generous but here the quality of the performances
take precedence. This is rewarding if little known late-Romantic
music that is well worth exploring. I believe the Harp
Concerto to be a major work and this Naxos release is
a gem waiting to be unearthed.
see also review by Raymond Walker
(USA sales only)