Rheinberger: Six Religious Songs; Two Songs from ‘Elegiac Songs’; Organ Sonatas, Opp. 65 & 98

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COMPOSERS: Rheinberger
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Six Religious Songs; Two Songs from ‘Elegiac Songs’; Organ Sonatas, Opp. 65 & 98
PERFORMER: Gotthold Schwarz (baritone)Jürgen Sonnentheil (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 351-2
Most references to Rheinberger gravitate towards his substantial output for the organ. He was, however, equally absorbed by the composition of instrumental and vocal music (choral works and Lieder) and, as a busy teacher, he was also influential in perpetuating Classical traditions and craftsmanship. The four Elegiac Songs, Op. 128 (Nos 3 & 4 recorded here) and the Six Religious Songs, Op. 157, two sets from several combining solo voice with organ, are both exquisite examples of the discreet sense of melody and harmonic restraint (but not dullness) Rheinberger possesses through such allegiances to the past. Schwarz’s focused and resonant voice, ably accompanied by Sonnentheil (who achieves the correct pianistic suppleness for such a genre), brings a feeling of power and unsentimental good intention to these settings of, as the notes pinpoint, ‘epigonic’ and ‘gilt-edged’ religious poetry. Although displaying appropriate gravitas and colour, the readings of the organ sonatas perhaps lack a little of the poise needed to attain the lyrical perfection they demand. Andrew McCrea

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