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8.557404 - REINECKE: Flute Concerto / Harp Concerto / Ballade
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Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
Harp Concerto in E minor, Op. 182 • Flute Concerto in D major, Op. 283 • Ballade, Op. 288


Carl Reinecke is probably better remembered as a teacher than as a composer, with a range of pupils to his credit, from Sullivan and Svendsen to Grieg and Weingartner. He was born in Altona in 1824, the son of a musician, himself the son of a shoemaker, who was largely self-taught in music, and who provided his son with a sound basis for his future career. Carl Reinecke showed early musical ability and made his début as a pianist in 1835. From 1845 he toured widely in Europe, and gave concerts with the violinist H.W. Ernst, among others, accepting the position of court pianist in Copenhagen, where he established a connection with the composer Niels W. Gade. He had spent some time in Leipzig, where he was well received by Mendelssohn and by Clara and Robert Schumann. In his reminiscences, published in 1900, Reinecke recalled the mercurial and gifted Mendelssohn as quick and incisive in his criticism, while Robert Schumann was less communicative but generally encouraging. Schumann, indeed, found in Reinecke someone musically after his own heart. In 1848, after the death of Mendelssohn, Reinecke was once more in Leipzig, and the following year spent some days in Weimar. Liszt, writing to his friend and former pupil Franz Kroll, described him in the most complimentary terms, both as a composer and as 'un charmant garçon', entrusting him with dealings over a grand piano made available to Liszt by the publisher Hermann Härtel, and helping him with introductions in Paris, when Reinecke went there in 1851. It was in Paris, during a stay of some months, that Reinecke gave lessons to one of Liszt's daughters.

From 1851, Reinecke taught at the Cologne Conservatory, and worked at Barmen for five years as a conductor and administrator, on the recommendation of Ferdinand Hiller. After a period in Breslau as director of music at the university, he returned in 1860 to Leipzig as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and professor at the Conservatory founded by Mendelssohn. In 1869 he conducted the first complete performance of Brahms's German Requiem, including the new seventh movement, and was the pianist in the first performance of the same composer's Cello Sonata, Op. 38, in Leipzig in 1871. After the death of Brahms in 1897, he wrote a Cello Sonata of his own, Op. 238, in memory of Brahms. In general he had little sympathy with the New German School, the Music of the Future of Wagner and Liszt, happy to remain among the followers and successors of Schumann.

Reinecke's concert activities continued over the following years, with tours to England and to Scandinavia, and concerts in Russia, both as a pianist and as a conductor. He was succeeded in 1895 at the Gewandhaus and in 1902 retired from his position as director of the Leipzig Conservatory, which he had assumed in 1897. He continued his activity as a composer until his death in 1910, part of the romantic German tradition exemplified by Schumann, with a long and varied list of compositions, ranging from opera and vocal and choral works to three symphonies, concert overtures, concertos for the piano and for other instruments, chamber music, piano compositions, editions and pedagogical works.

Reinecke's Harp Concerto in E minor, Op. 182, was written in 1884. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and timpani, with four horns, and strings. The first movement opens with horns and timpani, soon joined by strings and woodwind, as an important rhythmic motif is introduced. The harp enters with ascending arpeggios and the principal theme, dominated by the earlier rhythmic motif. There is a transition leading to the relative major key, providing a secondary theme of greater optimism. The material is further developed, before the return of the exposition in recapitulation, with a solo cadenza. The B major Adagio, the harp part written in the customary C flat major, a key of greater convenience to the player, allows the soloist to present the first theme, a hymn-like subject with rhythmic echoes of Beethoven that forms the principal substance of the movement. The Scherzo-Finale, emulating Liszt in its use of the triangle in this context and with a significant element for the trumpet, has the soloist entering with material very much in the mood of a scherzo, a theme that makes clear Reinecke's allegiance to his earlier mentors, to Mendelssohn and then, in later episodes, to Schumann.

The other two compositions by Reinecke included here belong to the last years of his life. The Flute Concerto in D major, Op. 283, is dated to 1908, followed by the final opus number given to the Ballade, Op. 288, for flute and orchestra. The first of these works is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and timpani, with four horns, varied percussion, and strings. The first movement opens with woodwind chords, over which the flute provides a brief introductory phrase. The principal theme is then heard from the first clarinet and violas, expanded by the clarinet and first violins before the entry of the solo flute. This leads to the solo version of the main theme, now in B major. This is further developed in virtuoso writing for the soloist, before the flute turns to the expressive second subject. The movement continues in the expected form, with development of the thematic material and display from the solo flute, until the whole orchestra joins in a recapitulation. The B minor slow movement, marked Lento e mesto, starts with the muffled notes of the timpani, together with ominous plucked notes from cellos and double basses. There are sustained chords from the French horns, before the entry of the soloist, accompanied by muted strings. A more dramatic orchestral passage is followed by a flute recitative and the return of a version of the main theme of the movement, which ends in a tranquil B major. Plucked strings accompany the first theme of the finale, heard from the clarinet, before the entry of the soloist with a more elaborate version of the same material. There is considerable scope for virtuoso display in what follows, with its contrasting thematic material, gradual increase in excitement, and Mendelssohnian deployment of orchestral forces.

Reinecke's Ballade, Op. 288, uses a title that suggests, at least, literary content. Marked Adagio initially, it starts in a sinister narrative D minor, before the entry of the solo flute. The following Allegro, at first in A minor, allows a show of agility in the scherzo-like figuration of the solo flute part. The opening Adagio returns, quickly modulating to the original key. The piece ends in a more optimistic D major.

Keith Anderson

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