In his own lifetime (1839–1901), Joseph Rheinberger was more sought after as a professor of organ and composition than he was recognized as a great composer. His roll call of students at the conservatoire in Munich was long and impressive, including Humperdinck, Wolf-Ferrari and Furtwängler. However, Rheinberger produced a significant catalogue of sacred music in particular, concentrated on choir and organ. Sometimes unfavourably compared to Brahms, he is more usefully regarded as a south-German Fauré – for the gentle contours of his melodies and the softly rounded quality of his choral writing. The principal work on this new album is the Mass for four-part men’s chorus which he composed in 1898, and which has become a staple of the male chorus repertoire around the world. By no means as staid or sober as its scoring might suggest, the Mass is a work of resonant beauty and sweetness, a concise and elegant demonstration of Rheinberger’s melodic gifts and his embodiment of Catholic values in the secular musical culture of late 19th-century Germany.
This newly recorded album makes an ideal introduction to the world of Rheinberger through its diversity. The Mass is complemented by a radiant partsong, Abendfriede, and a setting of the Ave Maria all the more affecting for its devotional simplicity, close in spirit to the early motets of Bruckner. Finally, Manuel Tomadin plays the grandest and best-known of the 20 organ sonatas composed by Rheinberger throughout his career.
Cast in three movements, No. 19 opens with an imposing Allegro, while the intimate central Provenzalische finds Rheinberger at his most beguiling as he taps into the folkloristic culture of
German Catholicism. Prefaced by a broad introduction, the chromatic counterpoint of the finale approaches Reger for hard-won transcendence, played here on the organ of the Church of Maria Ausiliatrice in the Slovenian town of Vipava.
Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) was a German romantic composer of mainly works for the organ, his own instrument. He was one of the leading figures in the “Cecilian Movement” which, in a world of increasing secularization, propagated the return to religious values of the past, expressing itself in a renewed interest in Gothic architecture and polyphony.
Rheinberger’s works are a happy blend of the Romantic spirit of his time and a healthy dose of polyphony and counterpoint, in this he was a worthy successor of Felix Mendelssohn.
This new recording presents a selection of choral music and organ works, the two genres in which Rheinberger excelled and for which his fame is undisputed. Included are the Mass for Male Choir and Organ Op. 190, Ave Verum, the popular Abendfriede for organ and the mighty Organ Sonata No. 19 in G minor. Music of great warmth and sensitivity, quintessentially romantic.
Played by organist Manuel Tomadin on the 1897 Goršič organ at the Church of Maria Ausiliatrice, Vipava, Slovenia, the specifications of which are included in the booklet. The male choir “Il polifonico” is conducted by Fabiana Noro.
Critical praise for Manuel Tomadin on Brilliant Classics
‘Organ aficionados will likely wish to acquire it; recommended.’ Fanfare (Das Husumer Orgelbuch, 95328)
‘A very attractively conceived and well-executed Bach organ recital disc.’ Fanfare (Preludes, Fugues, Chorales and Fantasias, 95786)