REINECKE Octet.1 From the Cradle to the Grave: Excerpts (arr. Köhler).2 Sextet3 • Fenwick Smith (fl);1,2,3 Craig Nordstrom (cl);1,3 Thomas Martin (cl);1,3 Keisuke Wakao (ob);Read more class="SUPER12">1,3 Daniel Katzen (hn);1,3 Jonathan Menkis (hn);1,3 Roland Small (bn);1 Richard Ranti (bn);1 Hugh Hinton (pn)2 • NAXOS 8.570777 (67:52)
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 (Fanfare 17:1) 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 (Fanfare 19:1), 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.
Octet for Flute, Oboe, 2 Clarinets, 2 Horns and 2 Bassoons, Op. 216by Carl Reinecke Performer:
Thomas Martin (Clarinet),
Roland Small (Bassoon),
Patrick Smith (Flute),
Daniel Katzen (French Horn),
Keisuke Wakao (Oboe),
Fenwick Smith (Flute),
Craig Nordstrom (Clarinet),
Richard Ranti (Bassoon),
Jonathan Menkis (French Horn)
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1892 Length: 22 Minutes 16 Secs.