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8.553925 - RINCK: Works for Organ
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Johann Heinrich Christian Rinck (1770-1846)
Organ Works

Johann Heinrich Christian Rinck was born on 18th February 1770 at Elgersburg in Thuringia. He had his first musical training from his father, an organist and teacher, studying also with a number of other teachers in Thuringia and soon outstripping them. At the age of sixteen he went to Erfurt as a pupil of Johann Christian Kittel, himself one of Johann Sebastian Bach's most important pupils, who valued his talent so highly that he soon made him his deputy as organist at the Predigerkirche. By 1789 Rinck had reached the position of organist at the principal church in Giessen and shortly after being appointed director of music at Giessen University, he moved, in 1805, to the better paid position of cantor and organist at the principal church in Darmstadt, where he remained until his death on 7th August 1846. There he displayed his various abilities, as organist, teacher, an expert on the organ and as a composer. In spite of the limited number of his extremely successful concert tours in Germany, he won an important international reputation, earning many honours, among others appointment as Court Organist in Darmstadt and an honorary doctorate from the University of Giessen. His reputation as "the German Bach", notably in France and England, rested mainly on his many published, widely distributed and commercially successful compositions, including works not only for the organ but also vocal and chamber music. His organ pupils included Friedrich Hesse and he influenced a whole generation of organists in Germany and subsequently in France. His collection of music manuscripts, which includes several important sources for the music of Bach, received from his teacher Kittel, still retains its value for musicologists.

Although born twenty years after the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, Rinck was, nevertheless, strongly influenced by the latter's style, while still accepting the revolutionary developments in the music of his time as represented by his exact contemporary Beethoven. The diversity of his own style may be partly explained by these divergent stylistic influences and partly by a commercial instinct for the market. Rinck's popularity among the organists of his time is seen in the presence of his compositions in almost all of the numerous collections of organ music for liturgical purposes. In general his organ works adhere to a contrapuntal church style, with smaller forms prevailing. Especially in the shorter preludes, however, original, rhythmically interesting motifs and occasional surprising harmonic changes are to be found.

In his large collection Organ Compositions Ancient and Modern (London, c.1880), William T. Best published an Introduction and Fugue in E flat major, under the more popular title Concertstück. The inspired thematic material of the prelude, written in the spirit of the German galanter Stil, and the almost Handelian flow of the double fugue, which has a serious first subject In stile antico and a more florid second subject, may explain why the piece must have been particularly attractive to English audiences.

Out of Rinck's numerous sets of variations, the present release offers three, each of a very different kind, owing largely to the source of their subjects, taken, as usual with Rinck, from other composers. In the Six Variations sur un Air de Corelli/ik Zag Caecillia kommen, Op. 56, originally published by Schott, we find the types of variation most frequently used by Rinck. These are the tranquil homophonic setting of the simplified melody with early Romantic harmonization, imitative treatment of the elegantly figured and articulated subject, a Larghetto with heavy, dotted rhythms, an energetic homophonic setting with a virtuoso pedal line dominated by dotted rhythms, a supple Cantabile in the major mode with rococo ornamentation of the soprano solo line and a multipartite finale interspersed with a few reflective or capriccio passages marked piano.

The short Trio in B minor, published by Th. Cieplik in Ausgewählte Trios (‘Beuthen’), displays not only intensive imitative writing and advanced contrapuntal skills, but also a fine sense of musical lyricism.

With his chorale variations Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele (‘Rejoice greatly, my soul’) Rinck takes up the tradition of the chorale partita. Here there is a bicinium, the cantus firmus alternating between two voices, a three-part setting with the Cantus firmus in the alto and a perpetuum mobile bass, two imitative settings with the cantus firmus in the tenor and in the bass. In contrast to Baroque practice Rinck includes several variations which might be used as accompaniment for congregational singing, with small interludes between phrases of the hymn, a practice typical of his time.

Rinck's Pracktische Orgel-Schule, Op. 55, published in the years from 1819 to 1821 in six separate parts, was widely distributed throughout the world, particularly in its second edition by Wilhelm Volckmar which was also printed in Boston and can still be found today in the organ-lofts of the United States and South America. It mainly contains examples of the serious contrapuntal style already regarded as a little old-fashioned at the time, but still highly esteemed by the conservative Rinck, who was himself deeply rooted in the tradition of Bach. As if to prove that he could also write in a more modern style, as advocated by his friend, the influential organ reformer Abt Vogler, he writes in the preface to the fifth volume as follows: “The flute concerto, the variations and several other pieces are not meant to be used during religious services, but serve to show how much can be achieved on the organ. My work would not be complete, if I had omitted these works in free style.”

The Flute Concerto is in fact close to Viennese classical style, with variations more akin to the early Romantic. At first sight the concerto looks like an organ or piano reduction of an orchestral composition, something certainly intended by Rinck, who does not hesitate to use techniques normally considered unsuitable for the organ, such as octave tremoli. The florid, virtuoso and sometimes amusing passages for the flute make a pleasant contrast to the generally short and energetic statements from the "orchestra". Rinck understands well how to adapt the characteristic idiom of the flute to the organ. The very accessible Rondo, with its perpetuum mobile type of broken chords, in particular, has made this the most popular of Rinck's organ compositions.

In the variations on Heil dir im Siegerkranz (‘God save the King’) compact homophonic settings, with the increasing activity of accompanying voices, are to be played with "strong stops", alternating with versions of the material that use a more delicate registration and texture. Among the latter a four-part setting, with the melody in the alto, played on the pedals, and a fast bass-line, with two atmospheric variations in the minor mode, deserve special attention. After a transitional passage, made up of several shorter sections built over fragments of the melody, the finale enters, with quasi-fugal elements that soon dissolve into virtuoso passages. After two short meditative piano sections the work ends abruptly with two orchestral chords.

Translation © 1997 Keith Anderson


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