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Stephen Francis Vasta
MusicWeb International, May 2009

The music is pleasing, in an early-Romantic way, though the dates expose that style as shockingly retrograde—post-Mendelssohn at a time when others were practically post-tonal. To call the composer a superior craftsman evokes comparison with Saint-Saëns, who was unquestionably a better tunesmith. Reinecke’s appealing themes don’t linger similarly in the mind, but the overall mood, the "sense" of the sound, does, which is perhaps more important.

The Octet offers an imaginative rethinking of that wind combination’s sonorous possibilities. Through most of the first movement, he uses the pair of horns to anchor a full-bodied mid-range sonority, establishing a sort of foundation timbre against which treble woodwinds, solo and unison, offer a nice play of textural contrasts. Three-bar phrase lengths—or, perhaps, single measures of 9/8 time, since I’ve not seen the score—bring an uplift that carries through both the Scherzo proper and its smoother trio. The building of textures again comes into play in the Adagio: the theme sweetly offered by the clarinet eventually emerges in an expansive, full-throated restatement. The Finale’s main subject has a cheerful, unforced moto perpetuo feel, set off by a syncopated second group that actually moves faster; there’s a nifty detour into a remote key at 2:41.

Although Reinecke has fewer instruments at his disposal in the three-movement Sextet than in the Octet, he finds the resources for a similar highlighting and contrasting of textures. The horn gets more lyrical opportunities here, however, and Jonathan Menkis intones those solos with velvety smoothness. The central Adagio molto is the score’s emotional center as well; heartfelt and mostly somber at the start, it abruptly turns chipper at 3:04.

What is offered here as Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe is a selection of twelve of Reinecke’s original set of twenty-four solo piano pieces, arranged by Ernesto Köhler for flute and piano…There’s no denying the commitment of either flutist Fenwick Smith or dexterous pianist Hugh Hinton…The sound quality however is excellent, rendering the wind ensembles with full-throated depth, although once or twice the clarinets’ low range threatens to hit the mikes hard. In Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, the flute is crisply etched against the piano.

Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, January 2009

Carl Reinecke (1824–1910), virtuoso pianist and string-player, prolific composer, revered teacher, and for many years music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, is today remembered, if at all, as a composer of works for winds and of cadenzas for other composers’ concertos. At one time the assumed inheritor of the mantles of Schumann and Mendelssohn, Reinecke instead fell under the shadow of the looming genius of Johannes Brahms. Fenwick Smith’s notes suggest that he began writing chamber works for winds because it was a genre that Brahms had not dominated. Fair enough; it worked.

These wind ensembles date from the last two decades of Reinecke’s long and productive life. They show the influence of the German Romantics and of Mozart’s later wind serenades. Anyone who enjoys the Mozart works or Richard Strauss’s wind compositions will take pleasure in these, though they lack the harmonic innovations of the later master and the sheer genius of the earlier. The Wind Sextet is undoubtedly the more accomplished of the two works, but both it and the earlier Wind Octet have enormous charm. In the Sextet, Reinecke darkens a standard woodwind quintet with the addition of a second horn, creating a colorful palette that he exploits skillfully. The Octet is even more concerned with sonority, the pairs of clarinets, horns, and bassoons often providing a richly variegated foundation to support flute and oboe filigree. There is nothing especially profound here, just warm summer evening, open pavilion kind of fare. Given the fairly sparse wind ensemble repertoire, it is hard to figure why they are not more often performed.

Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe­­ was written as a suite for piano, in the manner of Schumann, tracing a life from birth to apotheosis. This is salon music for domestic consumption and Reinecke tailors his piece precisely to his market’s fondness for sentimentality. Mercifully for modern sensibilities, only eight of the 16 pieces were arranged for flute and piano by flutist Ernesto Köhler. I was particularly relieved that the finale, “Upward to the Stars,” was omitted. Smith and Hinton play the pieces with great flair and conviction, but this is altogether too maudlin.

For all that, I am pleased that Naxos has made this 1993 Et’cetera release available again. Comprised of non-principal members of the Boston Symphony—the principals perform as the Boston Symphony Chamber Players—the ensemble’s excellence speaks volumes about the talent depth in that orchestra. These wind ensembles were recorded again in 1994, by Ensemble Villa Musica for MDG 304478, during what was, judging from the many reviews in Fanfare, a mid-1990s mini-surge of interest in the composer’s works. David Johnson, who reviewed both of these, thought the intimacy of the MDG performances better caught the works’ spirit. I prefer the marginally superior warmth and energy of the Naxos—and the price.

American Record Guide, December 2008

Carl Reinecke is not a completely forgotten figure; in late 19th Century Germany he enjoyed a long and respected career as a conductor, composer, and teacher, and he became a stalwart of the conservative German romantic style. He wrote in almost every genre, including symphony and opera; but in the shadow of Brahms, his works never achieved a strong foothold in the repertoire. Reinecke’s experience on the podium, however—he led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for 35 years—gave him a profound knowledge of orchestral instruments, and he poured a good deal of his creativity and spare time into wind music. In a time where the ideal forces for chamber music were strings and piano, Reinecke’s wind works loom large; and fortunately for wind players and aficionados, they are well-written and beautifully crafted.

This is a re-release of a 1993 Etcetera recording made by members of the Boston Symphony. The program consists of Reinecke’s Octet for flute, oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, and two horns; his Sextet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and two horns; and an arrangement of his solo piano work From the Cradle to the Grave for flute and piano. Reinecke’s orchestration of the octet and sextet, adding more bottom than top, goes a long way toward giving both works a “symphonic” feel; and while his melodies are not the most original, his manipulation of harmony, rhythm, and thematic material make for very rewarding listening. In the early 1890s, the prominent flutist Ernesto Kohler selected eight of the 16 piano miniatures of From the Cradle to the Grave; the tunes here are more memorable, and the intimate qualities of the music lend themselves well to Kohler’s arrangements.

As one might expect by the personnel involved, the octet and sextet are superbly played, with professional polish and musicianship. They allow Reinecke’s music to sparkle and breathe with the idiosyncratic timbres that naturally occur when several different colors and timbres congregate at once. Their performance is a reminder of how far chamber music has evolved from the dinner halls of the 18th Century courts, and how the increasing prominence of wind instruments transformed the Western orchestra in the 20th Century. Fenwick Smith and Hugh Hinton give a convincing rendition of From the Cradle to the Grave, and if you know Reinecke’s famous Undine Flute Sonata you will also enjoy this work.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, July 2008


Continuing their invaluable series of rereleases featuring noteworthy recordings that were originally on other labels and have long since disappeared, Naxos now gives us some exceptional music by Carl Reinecke (1824-1910). Not available since the late 1990s, his wind octet and sextet included on this disc are romantic anomalies because composers of that period were preoccupied with writing chamber music that included strings. As far as wind works for small ensembles go, these selections are exceptional for the rich sonorities Reinecke manages to conjure up. His ability to do so is undoubtedly explained by the fact that in addition to being a composer he was an outstanding conductor and teacher with a complete understanding of all wind instruments.

In four movements, the Wind Octet (1892) is scored for flute, oboe and pairs of clarinets, horns and bassoons. The doubling of the latter adds a tonal depth apparent from the very outset of the piece. The opening allegro is a perfect example of sonata form with inspired thematic material that gives it great appeal. In the following scherzo a light, bubbly motif alternates with a more dignified melody. The last two movements, an adagio and allegro, are diametrically opposed. The former is a lazy river of satiny sound, while the latter is a rustic caper that ends this Aeolian delight on a wind-swept note.

The Sextet (1905) is in only three movements, and scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, two horns and bassoon. The additional horn insures this piece doesn't come off sounding like some of those squeaky wind quintets. It opens with a theme whose first ten notes comprise a falling motif, which becomes the unifying idea behind this masterfully constructed movement. In the adagio, relaxed pastoral opening and closing sections surround a perky central episode, which could almost be out of some dietetic Bruckner scherzo. The balletic finale begins with a theme strangely reminiscent of the "Dance of the Cygnets" from the first act of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (1877). Then there's a lovely central waltz section and the sextet concludes with a merry coda.

The disc is filled out with eight of Reinecke's sixteen piano pieces entitled From the Cradle to the Grave (1888) as arranged for flute and piano by flautist-composer Ernesto Köhler (1849-1907). Each bears a title (see the album notes for details), and Reinecke's indebtedness to Robert Schumann (1810-1856) is pretty obvious, particularly in the rather angular melodies that characterize these delicate miniatures. Highlights include a spirited "Play and Dance" number, tender "O Beautiful May Night" and charming "Birthday March." The last selection, "Sunset," references the seventeenth century tune "Grandfather's Dance" [track-12, beginning at 01:29], which Schumann quotes in the finale of Carnaval (1833-35).

All of the artists here are members of the Boston Symphony and, while not principal players, their beautifully crafted, sensitive performances of this music certainly reflect very highly on that illustrious orchestra. Flautist Fenwick Smith and pianist Hugh Hinton get a standing ovation for their outstanding "cradle-songs."

The sonics are uniformly audiophile quality even though all of these selections were recorded in different venues. In each case the soundstage is perfectly suited to the piece in question, and the instrumental timbre is completely natural. Play this at night with the lights out and you'll swear the performers are right in front of you. By the way, if you like this music, make sure you investigate Reinecke's superb concertos [Flute Concerto, Harp Concerto & Ballade on Naxos 8.557404].

Laurence Vittes
Audiophile Audition, July 2008

… The Octet and the valedictory Sextet are both technically mellifluous and cautiously sweet, while the 11 arrangements for flute and piano of his popular suite of piano pieces, From the Cradle to the Grave verges on saccharine. Disappointing for those who prefer the more vigorous and thrilling woodwind music of composers like Reicha and Spohr.

Released in 1993 on the Dutch Etcetera label, these fine performances by "non-principle" members of the Boston Symphony are just the thing, affectionate and unfailingly silvery. The sound is beguiling as befits its refined academic recording in Chapin Hall at Williams College. Flutist Smith's liner notes display a performer's affection for Reinecke without going overboard.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2008

I recall reviewing this disc with considerable enthusiasm when it was first released way back in 1993 on the Etcetera label, and am delighted to renew my acquaintance. Carl Reinecke had combined the life of a brilliant pianist and popular conductor with a prodigious output of music in all genres, having been born into a German musical family in 1824. He was eventually to become Music Director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, taking over from his illustrious predecessors, Mendelssohn and Schumann. As a symphonic composer his music was to have a short shelf-life, with Brahms and his contemporaries arriving on the scene and composing in a new and more hard-hitting style. While his chamber music still tells of a most attractive and gifted composer, it tended to die along with his orchestral output. His works for wind instruments hardly stood a chance as such groups were to fall from favour during the composer’s lifetime, and while they were superb examples of woodwind writing, such ensembles only regained respectability in the 20th century. But start the disc anywhere in the Octet (op.216) or Sextet (op.271), and it can hardly fail to please, tuneful melodies abounding, the composer so acutely aware of the attractive and pungent sonorities he was creating. Sandwiched between is an arrangement for flute and piano of eight sections from Reinecke’s piano work, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (From the Cradle to the Grave). Again most pleasing, though never quite so inspired as the ensemble pieces. They are played by principals of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which includes one of the great names in flute playing, Fenwick Smith. He is a member of the group and soloist in the arrangement. The playing is very good throughout the disc, the sound of outstanding quality. A bit off the beaten track, but a disc I fervently commend to you.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group