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Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Orchestral Works Volume 1
Symphony No.3 op.227 in G minor [32.23]
Overture: König Manfred, Op.93 [9.45]
Romanze from the 4th Act: König Manfred [3.45]
Prelude to the 5th Act: König Manfred [5.43]
Symphony No.1 op 79 in A major [25.29]
Triumphmarsch op.110 [3.41]
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Henry Vaudales
rec. 2014/16, Studio 1, Bavarian Radio, Munich
CPO 555 114-2 [81.26]

The prolific Carl Reinecke – with over 300 published works – is one of those figures who floats rather at the edges of one’s consciousness of musical history. For most of us, I suspect, nothing much stands out, no memorable tunes, and he has little to no hold on the concert problem. Yet he was a highly talented musician, the son of a music teacher, and himself initially a violinist before turning his attention to piano and conducting. And a very fine conductor he must have been, directing the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1860 until his replacement by Artur Nikisch in 1895. As a pianist, he was the earliest-born to have his art preserved on piano rolls, and his playing was noted for charm and elegance, especially in Mozart. As a teacher, he was distinguished – pupils included Albéniz, Bruch, Busoni, Grieg, Janáček, Svendsen, Sinding, Ethel Smyth, Stanford, Svendsen and Weingartner. Photographs suggest an open and friendly manner.

But how good is his music? Biographers frequently use the term ‘conservative’, and there is certainly a sense of diffidence (Reinecke was perhaps too conscious of a lack of training in composition). None of the works on this CD suggests angst or an unmistakeable personal voice. For all that, they are very enjoyable, deftly orchestrated and good examples of Middle Romantic writing. The First Symphony, from the mid 1850s, but revised in 1863, has an attractive freshness, perhaps a little too influenced by Mendelssohn and Schumann, with a particularly notable scherzo. The Third Symphony, from 1895 is notably more forthright, especially in the first movement and the scherzo, and the finale, beginning Maestoso, gallops to a helter-skelter finale. If we think of other premieres that year, Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, Till Eulenspiegel, Elgar’s From the Bavarian Highlands, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, the gap in originality is evident – the difference between accomplishment and genius – but, taken on its own terms, this symphony yields its own pleasures.

The remaining works, with the exception of the brief Triumpmarsch, are orchestral extracts from the five-act opera König Manfred. Written in the 1860s, and perhaps Reinecke’s favourite of his own works, it was quickly overshadowed by Wagner, and faded from the repertoire. The extracts here are very worthwhile: the Overture and Prelude to Act 5 are particularly striking, as they were for original audiences. The Overture is very dramatic, the Prelude, a simpler structure and more measured, is instantly attractive. Both pieces merit revisiting. The brief Romanze, with its violin solo, here played most affectingly by the conductor, Henry Raudales, has a pleasing simplicity.

Even if music is less than the greatest, justice requires that it is carefully prepared and performed with absolute commitment and belief. Raudales and the Munich Radio Orchestra meet all these criteria. As always with cpo, production values are outstanding, with detailed and scholarly notes in German and English. Works here are more than simply historical curiosities – a plugging of the gaps – but are highly enjoyable on their merits and in their own right.

Michael Wilkinson

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