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ClassicsOnline Home » REINECKE: Symphony No. 1 / King Manfred
Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
Symphony No. 1, Op. 79 Music from the opera King Manfred, Op. 93
Nowadays Carl Reinecke is remembered in musical circles for his cadenzas to the concertos of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, while a wider public may perhaps know the flute sonata Undine, yet in the second half of the nineteenth century he was respected as one of the most influential and versatile musicians of the time, and as one of the most highly esteemed composers.
Carl Heinrich Reinecke was born on 23rd June, 1824, in the then Danish town of Altona, now a part of Hamburg. The year was the year of birth of Bruckner, of Cornelius and of Smetana. The son of a teacher of music, he was taught by his father and at the age of seven began to compose, making his first public appearance as pianist at the age of twelve. He undertook his first concert tour in 1843 as accompanist to the violinist H.W. Ernst, travelling to Copenhagen, where he met the composer Niels Gade. In the autumn of the same year he went to Leipzig for the first time, and there met Mendelssohn, the violinist Ferdinand David, Hiller and Schumann. Further concert tours in North Germany led, in 1846, to his appointment as Court Pianist in Denmark, where he remained until 1848.
A later visit to Leipzig brought Reinecke into contact with Liszt, whom he also visited in Weimar. The latter advised him, after a short stay in Bremen, to go to Paris, and there he was able to meet Berlioz, Stephen Heller and the composer Louis Théodore Gouvy. In 1851 Hiller invited him to join the staff of the Cologne Music School, where he worked for three years, his pupils including the young Max Bruch. In Cologne he also deputised for Hiller in choir rehearsals, gaining experience as a conductor and establishing his own choral group. In these years in Cologne he became friendly with Brahms and was often a guest of the Schumanns in nearby Düsseldorf. In 1854 he took over the direction of the choral society and concerts in Barmen and during the next five years raised the level of musical activity there, conducting on a number of occasions the Lower Rhineland choral festivals, before leaving in 1859 to spend a year as director of music at the University of Breslau.
1860 was a decisive year in Reineckes career. On the recommendation of Hiller and Gade he was appointed director of the Gewandhaus concerts in Leipzig, and professor of composition and piano at the Conservatory. He was to manage the concerts for the next 35 years and to serve as a teacher until 1902, his pupils including, Grieg, Reznicek, Sinding, Sullivan, Svendsen and Weingartner, among many others. After his retirement he devoted his time to composition and to writing on music. He died in Leipzig on 10th March, 1910, a much respected figure.
As a conductor of the school of Mendelssohn, Reinecke devoted himself to performances of the classics and of the music of his friends Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, while entertaining reservations on the Neo-German Schools of Liszt and Wagner. As a pianist he enjoyed some reputation as a player of Mozart and as an accompanist. His enormous output as a composer his numbered works reach Opus 288 included music of all genres. There are six operas, for the most part in a vein of folk-style humour, choral works, three symphonies, overtures, concertos, chamber music for various instruments, songs and a large number of works for piano. His music for young people stands next to that of Schumann in popularity, with piano pieces, symphonies and songs for children, fairy-tale compositions and duets, such as Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The most important of his larger scale compositions are the three symphonies and the concertos for flute and harp, and his chamber music includes a splendid piano quintet.
The first published symphony of Reinecke, the Symphony in A major, Opus 79, while earlier sketches remain in manuscript or were destroyed, appeared in its first version in Barmen in 1858 and was performed from the manuscript on 2nd December of the same year by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Julius Rietz. Reinecke revised the symphony in 1863, rewriting the second and third movements and adding slower introductions to the outer movements. The first performance of the revised version was given on 22nd October, 1863, at the Gewandhaus under the composers direction. A year later the symphony was published by Breitkopf and Härtel in Leipzig, with a dedication to the Russian Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna.
Almost following the pattern of a Haydn symphony, the revision provides considerable unity, the strength of the work lying in the interest of its thematic material and the way it is treated. In orchestration the symphony leans towards Mendelssohn, while melody and harmony recall the work of Gade and, more particularly, Schumann. The first movement provides an example of a regular romantic sonata-form movement, tightly organized. The D major Andante is in a finely proportioned five-section rondo form, in which there is a gentle melancholy typical of Reinecke, while the often chromatic part-writing shows the influence of Schumann. In the Scherzo he reveals his mastery of humour, later to be shown characteristically in the opera Der Gouverneur von Tours. The pensive Trio brings its surprises, a foretaste of Grieg. The final movement is again in sonata-form, with a very short development, providing a cheerful and technically assured conclusion to a symphony that is still in the old classic tradition.
Reinecke wrote his Grand Romantic Opera in Five Acts, King Manfred, between April and December 1866 in Leipzig, using a libretto by Friedrich Roeber. The work received its first performance on 26th July, 1867, at the Royal Court Theatre in Wiesbaden under the direction of Wilhelm Jahn and was published in 1868 by Breitkopf and Härtel. The opera deals with the fate of the war-like King Manfred of Sicily (1232-1266), an illegitimate son of the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II, who had half Europe against him and fell in battle against Charles of Anjou. Reinecke chose this unfortunately Wagnerian subject in accordance with the taste of the time. Although critics of the day recognised the value of the work, it was to disappear from the repertoire within a few years. Only the splendid Overture and the Preludes were to retain a place until the turn of the century.
The Overture is one of the most important works of Reinecke, constituting a character-sketch of Manfred, in the manner of Beethovens Leonora, Schumanns Genoveva and Manfred and Wagners Faust, rather than relying on the musical content of the opera. Here are all the ingredients of Romantic stage music, lyrical melodies for horn or cello, the sounds of the minstrels harp, agitated running notes for the strings and massive chords for the brass, all handled with an assurance that makes it difficult to understand the present neglect of the piece.
The Prelude to Act V deserves special mention. A short introduction presages the coming disaster, the death of Manfred, before a melodic line of lyrical intensity, a cogent demonstration of the creative power of the composer. It is with this music in mind that we may read Reineckes assessment of his own achievement, in a letter to Ferdinand Hiller on his choral work Belsazar: "...you know that no brilliant, original inventiveness is at my disposal..., but I believe, nevertheless, that I have provided a thoroughly respectable piece of work, evidence of worthy endeavour, a passable command of form and good taste, perhaps also of good judgement".
(English version by Keith Anderson)