Cello Sonata in C Major, Op.92
Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901) was born in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. At the age of 5, young Joseph was given piano and organ lessons from a local teacher. His talent was immediately discovered and was of such a substantial nature that with the help of a scholarship he was sent to the Royal Conservatory in Munich where he studied with Franz Lachner, one of Schubertís close friends and an important composer in his own right. Rheinberger, himself eventually taught at the Royal Conservatory where he held the position of Professor of Composition for nearly 40 years. Remembered today only for his organ compositions which are considered the most important ever written after those of Bach, during his life time Rheinberger was a much respected composer, generally ranked after Brahms and Wagner as the most important living German composer.
The cello sonata was composed in 1875 for David Popper, perhaps the greatest cellist before Pablo Casals. The huge opening movement, Non troppo allegro, begins with a very long-lined, singing theme in the cello which is give a dramatic accompaniment in the piano. The second theme is less thrusting and very lyrical. In the Andantino which serves as the middle movement, the cello presents another long-lined theme which is quite vocal in quality. When the piano is give a more active role, a gorgeous duet ensues. The finale, Vivo, the first theme, given to the cello is light-hearted and bouncy. The piano is given several contrasting virtuoso episodes and Rheinberger, the great master of fugue, is able to cleverly interweave short fugues between the sections.
This is an important big mid 19th century work for cello which surely belongs in the repertoire and ought to be welcomed by all cellists.