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Josef Gabriel RHEINBERGER(1839-1901) Musica Sacra X Sechs zweistimmige Hymne Op. 118 (1880) [18.34] Ave Maria in B WoO 71, No. 1 (1884) [2.45] Salve Regina WoO 54, No. 2 (c.1885) [3.45] Marianische Hymnen Op. 171 (1880-92) [21.53] Vier Hymnen Op. 54 (1877) [11.35] Vier elegische Gesange Op. 128 (1882) [22.32]
Lydia Teuscher (soprano); Christine Müller (mezzo); Annette
Markert (alto); Götz Payer (piano); Kay Johannsen (organ)
rec. 21-23 September 2009, Stiftskirche Stuttgart, 5-6 October 2009,
Kammerstudio, SWR Stuttgart. DDD CARUS 83.431 [75.33]
If, like me, you have associated Josef Rheinberger solely with
the organ loft and those remarkable if, it seems sometimes rather
long, sonatas, then this CD will come as a breath of fresh air.
It is part of a Carus series that includes masses and Motets
(see also review
of Vol. IX 83.410). This neatly presented disc consists of a
sequence of hymns and Latin texts set for female voices and
either piano or organ accompaniment. The booklet has photographs
of the artists as well as texts which have been sensibly translated.
There are useful notes by Berthold Over - also well translated.
So what of the music?
Rheinberger was primarily a church musician right from the time
of his first appointment at the age of fourteen. He mainly worked
in Munich and especially at the Hofkapelle which was responsible
“for the church music at the Allerheiligen-Hofkirche’
at the Munich Court form 1877-1894”. His religious works
span his entire career as demonstrated here.
There are three settings in all of the Ave Maria.
One is unopused and is simply ‘in B’. It is sweet
and romantic and probably aimed at an amateur market. This eloquent
work with its repetitions of ‘Ave Maria’ at the
end is utterly satisfying. Another setting opens the Marianische
Hymnen Op 171, (and a page of the manuscript is reproduced
in the booklet). These comprise six text settings, all in Latin,
for either two female voices or for one. They were written over
a period of twelve years. And the third is the final text of
the Five Hymns Op 54 for mezzo-soprano and organ
or piano. These are rather operatic settings, indeed arias composed
for Fanny von Hofnaas whom Rheinberger eventually married in
1869. they are both pictured at the back of the booklet in a
style typical of the period.
The Marian Hymns are accompanied by piano throughout
and seem suitable for the Victorian - if they were British,
that is, drawing room. They are somewhat sentimental, indeed,
as the booklet calls them, “sugary” and falling
into the category of art songs. The style seems difficult to
reconcile with the Latin texts such as ‘Alma Redemptoris
mater’, ‘Salve regina’ and ‘Ave Maris
Stella’ yet, we learn that they were performed in the
Hofkapelle by a tenor or tenors soon after completion.
Another unpublished and unopused work is the brief, separate
Salve Regina, which was intended for Op. 171 but
expunged in favour of the present setting. It is really rather
unmemorable but quite pleasing. All of these pieces are well
behaved and suitable for the untroubled and untroubling religious
needs of the time but quite out of kilter with our own times
and indeed with those immediately preceding Rheinberger.
The recording opens with the Sechs zweistimmige Hymnen
Op. 118 for two sopranos and organ. These are
mostly to well-known texts and generally not too sickly-sweet
except for the rather sentimental setting of the opening ‘Salve
Regina’; there are indeed three such settings on this
CD. The Memorarae (also a poem to the Virgin Mary) is
by Fanny his wife who also translated many of the Latin texts
into German for her husband. Generally the style is competent
two-part writing with often an exceptionally memorable melody
at least for the opening lines. At times, for example in the
Ave Maris Stella and the final Puer Natus the
writing is even Bachian with attractive sequences. There are
two psalm extracts Quam admirabile (Psalm 8) and Inclina
Domine (Psalm 86) and these would have acted as substitutes
for congregational psalms in the Munich Hofkirche.
I should mention the two remaining works a little more fully.
The Vier Hymnen consists of two psalm settings
and two medieval texts. They were written for his wife to be,
Fanny. These are in an attractive and more restrained style,
harmonically. Again they seem to take delight in long-limbed
melodic lines. The music could as easily be suitable for a parlour
or a setting of love poetry. But why should the devil have all
the best tunes?
The CD ends with the Vier elegische Gesänge
which is, I feel the finest as well as the longest work on the
CD. The mood is one of Brahmsian seriousness and serenity. The
sugary chromaticisms have gone and the texts have a modernist
touch. Apparently they were composed for Heinrich Vogel who
was a known Wagnerian; indeed he had sung Tristan. These four
songs would have been performed at Rheinberger's Hofkapelle.
The first song or aria as it could be called The souls of
the righteous concerns itself with God’s judgement
and in part takes its text from Psalm 126, the second is rather
baroque in style and uses, towards the end, the chorale melody
Wie schön uns der Morgenstern, a melody used in
Britain to this day for an Epiphany hymn. This leads nicely
into a serene Christmas setting beginning ‘Holy Night
on Angel’s Wings/thou comest lightly to the world’.
Finally an uplifting, almost Schumannesque setting of Easter
Song which has a much more florid vocal line and brings
the cycle to a joyous and highly satisfying conclusion. There
is a sense that the songs were conceived as a whole, in a suitable
language and with appropriate word/text painting in melody and
This disc therefore takes you on a journey through Rheinberger’s
sacred vocal music career. One comes out of the experience enriched
and moved. This is also due to the gracious and ideal performances
of the three vocalists whose tone quality, although mature and
full, is always literally perfectly in tune but also in accord
with the style of the music. In addition the use of piano and/or
organ is apt and the accompaniments are sensitive and beautifully
The texts are given although rather haphazardly scattered throughout
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