Piano music of Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
John Kersey, piano
Audio sample: Presto, op 31 no 3
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Total time: 72 mins 18 secs
1. Novelette, op 226 (5’34” )
Lieder der Nacht (Songs of the Night), op 31:
2. Mit innigem Ausdrucke (3’46”) 3. Lento, ma non troppo (2’31”) 4. Presto – Rasch und wild (2’06”) 5. Spanische Serenade (3’43”)
6. Funeral March on the death of Kaiser Wilhelm I, op 200 (6’04”)
Old and new dances, op 57
7. Gigue (2’35”) 8. Courante (2’14”) 9. Ländler (Tyrolienne) (1’45”) 10. Polka (2’20”)
11. Rhapsodie in B minor (unpublished) (1844) (1’54”)
Märchengestalten (Fairy tale forms), op 147
12. Prolog (1’25”) 13. Aschenbrödel (Cinderella) (1’09”) 14. Heinzelmännchen (Gnomes) (1’46”) 15. Gute Fee (The Good Fairy) (2’09”) 16. Rübezahl (The Mountain Spirit) (1’05”) 17. Schneewittchen (Snow White) (1’18”) 18. Die Roggenmuhme (The Rye-Wolf) (00’58”) 19. Der Königssohn (The King’s Son) (00’46”) 20. Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty) (1’04”) 21. Rothkäppchen (Red Riding-Hood) (1’12”) 22. Die sieben Zwerge (The seven dwarves) (1’19”) 23. Böse Fee (Bad Fairy) (00’40”) 24. Melusine (1’10”) 25. Undine (1’15”) 26. Die Regentrude (The Rain Maiden) (1’59”) 27. Epilog (1’28”)
28. Nocturne (3’27”)
29. Variations on a theme by J.S. Bach, op 52 (11’57”)
We are grateful to Dr. Klaus Tischendorf for supplying copies of scores for use in this recording.
Notes on the music
Carl Heinrich Carsten Reinecke was born in Altona, then part of Denmark, and studied music with his father, a teacher. A child prodigy, he was composing at age seven and performing as a concert pianist aged twelve. In 1843 he was appointed court pianist to King Christian VIII and was consequently based in Copenhagen until 1848. This was a fruitful period as a composer and he produced works in both larger and smaller forms. Moving to Germany, he was in 1851 appointed professor at the Cologne Conservatoire and in 1860 became director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts and professor at the Leipzig Conservatoire. His students included Grieg, Sinding, Bruch, Albeniz and Janacek. He remained director of the orchestra until 1895 and finally retired as a professor in 1902. His retirement allowed him more time for composition, and eventually he had completed over three hundred works in all formats.
Reinecke was the oldest pianist to record his playing. He made piano rolls for Welte and Hupfeld/Triphonola, and the Welte rolls show his style undiminished at the age of over eighty. Reinecke’s performances of his own works have been consulted in the preparation of this recording.
In style, Reinecke was a consummate craftsman and at his best a considerable artist in the mainstream of the Romantic movement. He is given more to considered utterance than many of his more spontaneous contemporaries, so that his piano works are the outcome of deep thought and culture rather than displaying the more visceral emotions. His writing throughout reveals a profound understanding of musical and pianistic effect, as well as an active and often playful imagination. Like many of his era, he was easily drawn to landscapes of fantasy and could evoke them with only a few metaphorical strokes of the pen.
Reinecke was intellectually curious, and his engagement with the music of the past can be seen at its most interesting in two near-contemporary works, the Variations on a theme by J.S. Bach op 52, and the Old and New Dances, op 57. The Variations show an approach to Bach’s style that points the way forward to Reger and incorporates at the conclusion aspects of the improvisatory approach of the fantasia. The Dances, by contrast, are neo-baroque long before the age of Pulcinella, Reinecke re-casting the Gigue and Courante into Romantic harmonic and textural settings so that the works are not so much pastiched as renewed in a different context. Then come two new dances, closer to their populist roots, but again re-conceived for listening rather than for dancing.
The fairy-pictures that occupy op. 147 were written for Reinecke’s daughter, and were surely approached in a spirit of challenge – the creation of a sketch-portrait with the greatest possible economy of effect and language. That they transcend their simple intentions and fall gratefully upon the ear is testament to Reinecke’s art.
The set Lieder der Nacht op 31 is more ambitious, outward-looking piano music in contrast to the domesticity of op. 147. Its emotions are at once more complex and more fully-realised. The spirit of Mendelssohn hovers not far away from the first piece, while the second features eloquent polyphony. In the third, marked “rasch und wild”, we are in a Schumannesque ride by night, assailed by creeping terrors and the exterior – or is it interior? – landscape of cataclysm. Only a complete contrast could follow this, and so it proves with the light, seemingly inconsequential Spanish Serenade, which however reveals strong poetic undercurrents in the central section.
The shorter works show Reinecke in more experimental mode. The early Rhapsodie, unpublished and here prepared from a copy of the autograph, was written in Leipzig in 1844 and dedicated to Miss Louise Lallemand “with friendly reminiscence”. The work is omitted from catalogues of Reinecke’s compositions and clearly he himself forgot it in later years, for it was never published. Here, a hunting motif leads to contrasting and intermeshing episodes, so that a good deal happens in a very short space of time.
The sophistication of the Novelette op 226 showed how far Reinecke had come in his approach to this sort of piece in the course of exactly forty years. This work above all reflects Reinecke’s approach to the keyboard as reviewed by the evidence of his recordings. The Funeral March op 200 is another striking work, with its muffled drumbeats and brass choruses; a grand memorial of public grief.