The recorded Romantic revival of the 1970s exhumed compositions
by Carl Reinecke, as well as by other equally obscure luminaries
from across Europe - Ignaz Brüll, Eugen d'Albert, Giovanni Sgambati,
Hermann Goetz, Bernhard Stavenhagen and Sigismund Thalberg. With
the switch from vinyl to silver, however, most of the crew returned
more or less to oblivion.
This welcome reissue of a 1993 Etcetera Records production can perhaps
restore Reinecke to some deserved favour. The music is pleasing,
in an early-Romantic way, though the dates expose that style
as shockingly retrograde - post-Mendelssohn at a time when others
were practically post-tonal. To call the composer a superior
craftsman evokes comparison with Saint-Saëns, who was unquestionably
a better tunesmith. Reinecke's appealing themes don't linger
similarly in the mind, but the overall mood, the "sense"
of the sound, does, which is perhaps more important.
The Octet offers an imaginative rethinking of that wind combination's
sonorous possibilities. Through most of the first movement,
he uses the pair of horns to anchor a full-bodied mid-range
sonority, establishing a sort of foundation timbre against which
treble woodwinds, solo and unison, offer a nice play of textural
contrasts. Three-bar phrase lengths - or, perhaps, single measures
of 9/8 time, since I've not seen the score - bring an uplift
that carries through both the Scherzo proper and its
smoother trio. The building of textures again comes into play
in the Adagio: the theme sweetly offered by the clarinet
eventually emerges in an expansive, full-throated restatement.
The Finale's main subject has a cheerful, unforced moto
perpetuo feel, set off by a syncopated second group that
actually moves faster; there's a nifty detour into a remote
key at 2:41.
Although Reinecke has fewer instruments at his disposal in the three-movement
Sextet than in the Octet, he finds the resources for a similar
highlighting and contrasting of textures. The horn gets more
lyrical opportunities here, however, and Jonathan Menkis intones
those solos with velvety smoothness. The central Adagio molto
is the score's emotional center as well; heartfelt and mostly
somber at the start, it abruptly turns chipper at 3:04.
What is offered here as Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe is a selection
of twelve of Reinecke's original set of twenty-four solo piano
pieces, arranged by Ernesto Köhler for flute and piano. I'm
not sure these pieces - descendants of Mendelssohn's Lieder
ohne Worte and Schumann's Kinderszenen - make a good
case for the composer. The first number, Spiel und Tanz,
is a nice buoyant waltz; Im Silberkranze offers some
strikingly unstable, Schumannesque harmonies; and the gentle
rocking rhythm of the concluding Abendsonne is appealing.
The rest are expressive in a sentimental, even a salonish way.
There's no denying the commitment of either flutist Fenwick
Smith or dexterous pianist Hugh Hinton.
The booklet inadvertently limits the composer's options further, billing
only five players! The sound quality however is excellent, rendering
the wind ensembles with full-throated depth, although once or
twice the clarinets' low range threatens to hit the mikes hard.
In Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, the flute is crisply
etched against the piano.