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Josef Gabriel Rheinberger

Recommended Discography

Among his many works for organ are 2 concertos. The first was composed for organ, 2 trumpets, 2 horn and strings in 1884; and the second for organ, 3 horns and strings was composed 10 years later. Rheinberger was one of the very few composers since the Baroque period to contribute to this genre, and his concertos are the outstanding examples of this genre in the 19th century. There are at least two recordings of the concertos available. One is listed below, the other is on Capriccio (10336 coupled with the Suite for violin & organ, Op. 166 - same forces as Capriccio 10337 shown below). The Capriccio recording treats the organ part more as a virtuosic showcase, and many feel this performance to be better than the one available on the Bayer release, though the organ part really has very few truly virtuoso passages. The Bayer recording treats the organ as an integral part of the orchestra.

Concerto #1, Op. 137 DDD
Concerto #2, Op. 177
Tubingen Kantatenorchester ADER, Bernard
Organ REHFELDT, Wolfram
Bayer BR100074CD 46:55

In addition to the two concertos, Rheinberger also wrote a large suite for organ, violin, cello and orchestra. This is coupled with a set of six pieces for violin & organ. These six pieces are not trifles - lasting nearly a total of 38 minutes - and each attests to Rheinberger's mastery of chamber music (more below). There is an additional disc available from Christophorus (CD74616), which I have not heard, containing the suite for violin & organ Op. 166 coupled with the violin sonatas (see below).

Suite for Organ, Violin, Cello & Orchestra, Op. 149 DDD
6 Pieces for Violin & Organ, Op. 150
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra HAENCHEN, Hartmut
Violin SEBESTYEN, Erno
Organ JUFFINGER, Andreas
Cello OSTERTAG, Martin
Capriccio 10337 1:13:15

Rheinberger's interesting piano concerto composed in 1870 has also been recorded. Though the only available performance is perhaps rather lackluster, it is still worth hearing, and both the price ($10; part of the 6-release "Romantic Piano Concerto" series) and the recording are quite acceptable.

RHEINBERGER - Piano Concerto, Op. 94 ADD
HILLER - Concerto in F Sharp Major, Op. 69
LITOLFF - Concerto symphonique #3 in E Flat Major, Op. 45
MENDELSSOHN - Capriccio brilliant in B minor, Op. 22
MOSCHELES - Concerto in G minor, Op. 58
REINECKE - Concerto #1 in F Sharp minor, Op. 72
Orchestra Of Radio Luxembourg FROMENT, Louis de
Berlin Symphony Orchestra SCHMIDT-GERTENBACH, Volker
Philharmonia Hungarica MAGA, Othmar
Orchestra Of Radio Luxembourg CAO, Pierre
Piano PONTI, Michael
Moss Music Group - Vox Box CDX5065 (2CDs) 2:15:34

Among the 18 orchestral works (not including the concertos above), are two symphonies and 3 symphonic overtures. The first symphony (Op. 10, 1866) was the more popular of the two. It is a shorter work which Rheinberger later renamed "Symphonic Fantasy". The later symphony was written during a prolonged trip through Italy which included a long stay in Florence. While in Florence, he was commissioned by the "Societa orchestrale" to write a symphony, which he then completed in 1874. This large symphony is classical in structure with the first and last movements in sonata form and a lively scherzo. Though it contains a continuous exposition of themes and motives with almost an overabundance of musical ideas, these ideas are integrated into a very cohesive whole. The performance and recording are excellent.

Symphony #2 "Florentine", Op. 87 DDD
Northwest German Philharmonic Orchestra FRANCIS, Alun
Carus 83.112 52:55

Though most of Rheinberger's music is unknown today, his organ music has consistently stayed in the repertoire. His 20 sonatas and many smaller works are notable for their compact structures, noble melodies and straight-forward harmonic language emphasizing fugal and polyphonic forms, almost entirely free of the dissonance often found in similar works of the day.

This is a tremendous recording, with very fine playing by Stevens. He also has two other discs of organ sonatas available from Raven: OAR-140 containing the sonatas #3, 11 & 12 coupled with an organ study from "Miscellaneen" Op. 174/6, and OAR-230 with sonatas #15, 18 & 19. Based on what I've heard from this disc (OAR-220), I'm very enthusiastic about purchasing the other 2CDs in what promises to be a complete traversal of the sonatas.

In addition to the Raven recordings, Wolfgang Stockmeier has recorded the 12 Fughettas, Op. 123b (book 1) and 12 "Character" pieces, Op. 156 (CPO 999041-2); the 12 Fughettas, Op. 123b (book 2) and 12 "Meditations", Op. 167 (CPO 999041-2); and the 12 "Miscellanies", Op. 174 (CPO 999089-2). All of which compliment the current Raven recordings very well.

Organ Sonata #16 in G Sharp minor, Op. 175 DDD
Organ Sonata #17 in B Major, Op. 181
Organ Sonata #20 in F Major, Op. 196
Organ STEVENS, Bruce
Raven Recordings OAR-220 1:15:21

That Rheinberger's piano music is not better known is a complete and total mystery to me. The sonatas in particular are very impressive examples of the Romantic style of piano composition. As mentioned previously, one hears the influence of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Liszt; but Rheinberger always manages to speak with his own voice. In particular, the sonatas #3 & 4 are highly refined, inventive (if not innovative) and well-crafted works. These pieces were very highly regarded in their day, and perhaps they will once again come into their own.

Both Gobel and Hanselmann are persuasive advocates of this music. With a total of 41 published works for the piano (the 5 below are the only pieces currently available on CD) this certainly seems to be potentially fruitful area for further exploration.

Improvisation on a Theme
from the Magic Flute, Op. 51
Piano Sonata #2, Op. 99
WOLF-FERRARI - 3 Impromptus, Op. 13
WOLF-FERRARI - 6 Bagatelles, Op. posth.
Piano GOBEL, Horst
Thorofon - Capella CTH2091 1:01:25
Toccatina for Piano in G minor, Op. 19 DDD
Toccata for Piano in C minor, Op. 115
Piano Sonata #3 in E Flat Major, Op. 135
Piano Sonata #4 "Romantic" in F Sharp minor, Op. 184
Prezioso CD800.009 1:07:01

Another strong suit of Rheinberger's was his chamber music. Throughout his 16 chamber works, his command of form and understanding of instrumental timbres is very evident. He explored many combinations from violin and cello sonatas, to large scale quintets, sextets and nonets using winds, strings and piano. Fortunately, Thorofon and Horst Gobel (founder of the Gobel Trio Berlin) have recently concluded a project began in 1989 to record all of the chamber music, thus making available on recordings for the first time the complete scope of Rheinberger's accomplishments in the form.

It should be noted that there are actually 4 piano trios (which have also been recently recorded by Trio Parnassus (Dabringhaus & Grimm MD&GL3279), Rheinberger arranged the fourth trio (Op. 191) for a sextet consisting of wind quintet and piano. This is the version Thorofon choose to include in their survey.

Theme & Variations for Piano, Op. 66 DDD
Violin Sonata #1, Op. 77
Violin Sonata #2, Op. 105
Violin MAILE, Hans
Piano GOBEL, Horst
Thorofon - Capella CTH2077 1:05:28
Piano Trio #1 in D minor, Op. 34 DDD
Piano Trio #3 in B Flat Major, Op. 121
Gobel Trio Berlin
Thorofon - Capella CTH2101 1:13:38
Piano Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 38 DDD
Sonata for Cello & Piano, Op. 92
Sonata for Horn & Piano in Flat Major, Op. 178
Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Piano GOBEL, Horst
Thorofon - Capella CTH2108 1:16:50
String Quartet #1 in C minor, Op. 89 DDD
String Quartet #2 in F Major, Op. 147
Camerata Quartet
Thorofon - Capella CTH2102 1:06:04
String Quintet, Op. 82 DDD
Piano Quintet, Op. 114
Sonare Quartet Frankfurt
Piano GOBEL, Horst
Violin NODA, Yumiko
Thorofon - Capella CTH2060 1:02:08
Theme & Variations for String Quartet, Op. 93 DDD
Piano Trio #2, Op. 112
Nonet, Op. 139 ADD
Sonare Quartet Frankfurt
Gobel Trio Berlin
Bronx Arts Ensemble New York
Thorofon - Capella CTH2061 1:12:32
Sextet for Piano & Winds F Major, Op. 191b DDD
WOLF-FERRARI - Symphony "Chamber" in B Major, Op. 8
Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Piano GOBEL, Horst
Thorofon - Capella CTH2078 1:09:57

In addition to the works listed above, there are several recordings available of Rheinberger's vocal music including hymns, a cantata, a missa, and a Stabat Mater (on Carus 83.111 & 83.113).

Copyright © Dave Lampson, 1999.