Is it a personal tragedy when the pupil outdoes the teacher? Or does it fill him with pride? Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) is an unknown unknown. His students however are well-known or at least known unknown composers i.e. unknown by the general public, but a reference for experts like the readers of this blog: Max Bruch, Leos Janacek, Edvard Grieg and Julius Röntgen. I think it is safe to say that Reinecke’s four students outdid their teacher in terms of celebrity. But they rival him in terms of excellence in composition remains to be seen.
I had read the name of Reinecke in the past and did not think much about it. Then I stumbled in one of those glossy music & lifestyle magazine I happen to subscribe to – I won’t say which – over a review of a recording of three sonatas for cello and piano written by Reinecke and since the name sounded vaguely familiar I gave it a try. I was richly rewarded since both pieces are true gems. The Sonata in A Minor, written and published in 1855, is my favourite and here is why: It has all the hallmarks of German Romanticism. Lyrical, melancholic etc. That’s obviously a plus. Oxford Music Online tells me that “despite being influenced by [Felix] Mendelssohn’s melodic style, [Reinecke] was stylistically nearer to [Robert] Schumann”. Well, I like both composers, so that’s another plus.
Furthermore Reinecke was a champion of the so-called “Hausmusik”, music written to be performed at home by and for family members or friends, music conferring a certain intimacy and void of any extravagant tricks, sparkling effects that would rather aim to impress a greater audience. The majority of his compositions are chamber music works, but he write a few operas and several symphonic works too.
Reinecke’s sonata get’s a triple A in the parlance of rating agencies. And his talent was recognized by his contemporaries: Schumann, Mendelssohn, both having taught Reinecke at some point, and Liszt, whose daughter studied with Reinecke. In 1851 Reinecke moved to Cologne to teach counterpoint and the piano at Hiller’s conservatory, in 1860 he moved to the conservatory of Leipzig founded under the impulse of Mendelssohn. In Leipzig he also conducted the Gewandhausorchester.
© Charles Thibo