Cello Sonata No.3 in G Major, Op.238
Nowadays, Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) has been all but forgotten, an unjust fate, to be sure, for a man who excelled in virtually every musical field with which he was involved. As a performer, Reinecke was, during the mid-19th century, reckoned for three decades as one of the finest concert pianists before the public. As a composer, he produced widely respected and often performed works in every genre running the gamut from opera, to orchestral to chamber music. As a conductor, he helped turn the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra into a group with few if any peers. As its director, he helped the Leipzig Conservatory become what was widely regarded as the finest in the world. As a teacher of composition and of piano, he was considered to have few if any equals. Among his many students were Grieg, Bruch, Janacek, Albeniz, Sinding, Svendsen, Reznicek, Delius, Arthur Sullivan, George Chadwick, Ethel Smyth, Felix Weingartner, Karl Muck and Hugo Riemann. In his time, Reinecke and his music were unquestionably regarded as first rate.
Reinecke was born near Hamburg in the town of Altona, then in the possession of Denmark. Most of his musical training was obtained from his father, who was a widely respected teacher and author. Starting in 1845 at the age 21, he began concertizing across Europe, in the course of which he was appointed court pianist to the King of Denmark. Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt all were favorably impressed by him and helped him gain an appointment at the Cologne Conservatory. By 1860, Reinecke’s reputation was such that he obtained a teaching position at the prestigious Leipzig Conservatory, which had been founded by Mendelssohn, and eventually rose to become its director. His reputation and excellence as a teacher can be attested to by the aforementioned list of famous students.
Unlike many of his contemporaries or even some of those composers who were younger, such as Bruch, Reinecke was able to move beyond the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann, the musical idols of the mid 19 Century. His Third Cello Sonata, composed in 1898 and dedicated to the memory of Johannes Brahms who had died the year before, is an example. In this sonata, Reinecke employed features of Brahms’ style without slavishly without betraying his own style or slavishly imitating Brahms. The result was one of the most impressive cello sonatas of the last part of the 19th century, and its significance was recognized by critics as such. The prestigious Musikalisches Wochenblatt wrote that
“The sonata is entirely worthy of bearing the name of the master to whose memory it is dedicated, Johannes Brahms. Its atmospherically charged ideas make its three movements music of noble character and solid construction. The tonal impression made is excellent.”
Meanwhile, the Signale für die Musikalishe Welt wrote,
“The content of Reinecke’s new cello sonata is marked by a thorough seriousness. The introductory Adagio begins solemnly with a sense of melancholy and leads to the tonally full main theme of the Allegro. The second movement, an Andante mesto brings to mind a funeral march. The cello is given an elegiac melody to play. The main theme of the finale is a powerful affair, almost throbbing. The second theme, while calmer, nonetheless is filled with heartfelt emotion. It is one of the most outstanding works which the grand old master Reinecke has written and we strongly recommend it to players.”
Here is a wonderful late romantic masterpiece which should be on the music stands of every cellist.