About this Recording
8.570181 - REINECKE: Music for Clarinet
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Carl Reinecke (1824–1910)
Trio in A major for viola, clarinet and piano, Op. 264
Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano, Op. 22
Sonate 'Undine' for clarinet and piano, Op. 167bis
Introduction and Allegro appassionato for clarinet and piano, Op. 256


Born in Altona in 1824, Carl Reinecke is very typical of those North German musicians of solid and wide-ranging musical background. Introduced to music by his father, himself the author of works on theory, Reinecke, during the course of his long life, would hold several important positions. Gifted as a pianist, he was also appointed conductor in 1854 of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, where, from 1869, he was professor of composition, teaching, among others, composers as varied as Grieg and Delius. His chamber music concert tours also drew attention. In 1897 he became director of the Leipzig Conservatory and contributed to establishing it as a musical institution of importance, while isolating it from new ideas.

If his long life brought him success and recognition, it must be acknowledged that posterity has taken a harsher view of his music. He was, however, one of the most prolific composers of the nineteenth century, with 288 opus numbers including all forms of music, symphonies, concertos, operas and songs; his chamber music has better survived the test of time, which is generally ill-disposed towards conservative composers. His several piano pieces for children should also be remembered.

Listening to Reinecke's compositions, one is immediately reminded of Schumann, with whom he was friendly, and of Brahms, who exercised a strong influence on him. We must not look for particular innovations in Reinecke, but his richness of harmony and his gift for natural melody make a particularly appeal from the past.

Written practically at the beginning of his eighties, the Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 264, is one of Reinecke's major works, both in form and inspiration. The instrumentation of clarinet and viola always calls for great subtlety in the choice of timbres and dynamics, the two instruments being so close to one another while very different in dynamic possibilities; in the trio Reinecke makes good use of this ambivalence. The first movement starts Moderato with the clarinet and viola together in unison presenting the main A major theme. This theme is soon transformed to become the essential framework of an Allegro of almost symphonic structure. The Intermezzo that follows, music of serene and charming elegance, mingles triple and duple metres in a discreet play of rhythms introduced first by the piano then taken up by the other two instruments. The third movement, Légende, could be a separate piece, with its descriptive intensity that awakens the listener's imagination. The introduction of literary or imaginary motifs is often found in Reinecke's music; one is reminded of the narrative second movement of the Trio for clarinet, horn and piano, written this time by a composer well into his eighties. The last movement, like the opening Allegro, brings together more traditional forms but its power and vitality remain intact, confirming the key of A major.

The Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano, Op. 22, make up the only work of Reinecke's younger days included here, as all the other music on the present CD belongs to his maturity. Compared with the compositions of his old age, there is an obvious relationship. If he seems rather to seek out here something of the simplicity of a song-writer, these fantasy pieces have, nonetheless, an undeniable charm, at the height of this great tradition of fantasy pieces found so often in German romantic music.

The first piece develops a tranquil almost bucolic theme in which Reinecke already understands very well how to capture the expressive possibilities of the clarinet. Largely based on the rhythm of the siciliano, the piece has an inventive and florid piano accompaniment.

The sparkling second piece suggests the lightness of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Elves, hurrying magic creatures, here populate a woodland world that Shakespeare would surely recognise.

In Deutscher Walzer Reinecke offers a Ländler in that Sturm und Drang tradition bringing together the learned and the popular. The central section of the piece is a brilliant scherzo.

It might appear surprising to find a canon, a rather strict musical form, among pieces intended for entertainment, but Reinecke cleverly combines melodic simplicity with strict writing, the sign of a gifted composer. Oddly, this piece always makes me think, in its intimate character and through a certain rhythmic relationship, of one of Bizet's Jeux d'enfants for two pianos, Petit mari, petite femme (Little husband, little wife), a European reunion in advance.

One of the works most played today in its version for flute, the Sonata 'Undine' for clarinet and piano, Op. 167bis, came about through the friendship between Reinecke and the principal flautist of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Wilhelm Barge. The myth of a water creature who becomes a woman has often been used in literature, most famously in the Little Mermaid of Hans Andersen. One might also think of the Celtic fairy Melusine or perhaps the German Lorelei, while going back as well to Greek mythology. Variously protective, vengeful or treacherous, female water creatures always exercise great power over men, while persistently seeking their love. Baron Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué (1777-1843), author of novels and romantic plays, wrote in 1811 a story, Undine, which soon became famous. Later Jean Giraudoux made of this a play that remains in contemporary repertoire. Unlike Hans Andersen's tale, where the mermaid, neglected by the Prince, chooses redemption through sacrifice, the water-nymph here decides to take revenge on the fisherman that she has been unable to seduce.

In the first movement the 6/8 rhythm takes us to the shore, in an iridescent light, almost an idyllic picture. Soon the mermaid appears, the waves stir, but there is no storm; the mermaid approaches the fisherman unawares, as he makes the most of the calm and the beauty of the scene. In the second movement the mermaid starts her mischievous dance of seduction, where Reinecke's music captures the scene, before stating his deeply lyrical love theme. The third movement offers two opposite moods, the mermaid's sadness at seeing her advances refused and her anger, depicted in virtuoso flights. The last movement brings the dénouement. Faced by the fisherman's lack of feeling, the mermaid sets free the elements, the waves rise, the wind blows, thunder sounds. Soon the fisherman's boat capsizes, and he disappears. One last time the mermaid's theme is heard, empty like an echo in the sea that has already grown calm again.

Reinecke may have written this work for the flute, but the clarinet version still has its own particular colouring. As was usual at the time, there are several changes between the two versions. In particular in the second movement the clarinet writing is quite different from the flute version.

Written during Reinecke's maturity and little known, the Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 256, is a concert piece that is full of life and verve, an expression of the spirit of romanticism. In the key of C minor, it makes excellent use of the blending of the two instruments. After some muted piano chords, the clarinet offers a noble and expressive melody, with wide-ranging melismata and ornaments. Soon the rapid Allegro almost violently takes the listener into a world that is troubled and fluctuating. Reinecke's skill here was to bring from this turbulence a second elegiac and noble theme that recalls the famous Undine theme of Op. 167. After a number of modulations, the tempo takes off into a short coda, bringing to a perfect end a work that in many ways succeeds to perfection.

Olivier Dartevell
English version by Keith Anderson


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