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Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Wind Octet in B flat, Op. 216 (1892) [22:55]
Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, Op. 202 (arr. Ernesto Köhler) (1888) [24:30]*
Wind Sextet in B flat, Op. 271 (1905) [20:25]+
Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
rec. Chapin Hall, Williamstown, MA, August 1992; *Paine Hall, Cambridge, MA, December 1992; +Jordan Hall, Boston, June 1992
NAXOS 8.570777 [67:52] 
Experience Classicsonline

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. 

Stephen Francis Vasta


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