Carl Reinecke, born the same year as Anton Bruckner, is one of those many “minor” composers from the Romantic era and the Austro-German area, now obscured in the shadow of the great towering giants, Mendelssohn (born in 1809), Schumann (1810), Liszt (1811), Wagner (1813), Bruckner (1824) and Brahms (1833).
But it’s always enlightening to explore those “minor” composers. Thanks to the recordings and the radio, we live so permanently in the company of the great masterpieces that we tend to become blasé and oversee what it is that makes them such masterpieces.
In turn, listening to these “minor” composers raises the nagging question: what is it that makes their works the music of “minor” composers, as opposed to the music of the “major” composers of the Romantic era? Sometimes, as I’ve experienced with the music of Robert Volkmann (1815-1883) or, other than his ever-popular Violin Concerto, Max Bruch (1838-1920), not much. Some other times, it’s more obvious, as with some works of Felix Draeseke, where the melodic invention sounded trite and the developments seemed to proceed by spurts rather than by a cogent and long-lined unfolding logic.
So far my main exposure to the music of Reinecke has been his late Serenade for Strings op. 242 from 1895, paired with Volkmann’s own three Serenades of similar spirit, on Robert Volkmann: Serenades 1-3. Carl Reinecke: Serenade in G minor. Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss am Rhein, Johannes Goricki. Cpo 999 159-2 (1994). It is charming but fairly bland, and extremely conservative in outlook, as if Reinecke’s musical style had stopped at that of his teachers, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt.