Thursday, July 16, 2009
Abendlied by Josef Rheinberger
Sung by the MEI Chamber Singers conducted by Larry Nickel. To be sung by the Washington Collegium under the direction of Evan Tucker, on this Sunday evening, the 19th of July at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington DC.
In many ways, Rheinberger was the Salieri of 19th century Germany. In his day, Rheinberger was regarded as a German composer of scarcely less importance than either Wagner or Brahms. His organ music was regarded by many as the greatest since Bach's and as Professor of Composition at the Munich Conservatory for nearly 40 years he was regarded as Germany's most distinguished composition teacher. Like his older contemporaries, Franck and Bruckner, Josef Rheinberger was also a church organist of great distinction. His output was enormous: twelve masses, twenty organ sonatas, and countless orchestral works.
And the only piece of Rheinberger which the average music lover can be counted on to have heard of is his small choral piece: the Abendlied. It is a slenderly beautiful work that but for its secular text could be mistaken for a Bruckner motet. Like Max Bruch, Joachim Raff, or Engelbert Humperdinck (a Rheinberger pupil) Rheinberger is a composer of great taste and craftsmanship who seems destined to be remembered only for an infantesimal part of his output.
(Joshua Smith plays from the Third Organ Sonata.)