Guest blogger and Organ expert Michael Barone explores our upcoming January 19th Handel • Rheinberger • Brossé concert featuring Dirk Brossé, conductor and Miho Saegusa (violin), Matt Glandorf (organ), Alan Morrison (organ), Jeffrey Brillhart (organ) in a four part series about this amazing night of concertos! Tickets and information here.
The name of Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) may not jump out at you as one of the ‘top 10’ composers of the romantic era, but he was an undeniably superb soloist, prolific composer, and much-sought-after teacher, who lived and worked in Munich in the latter part of the 19th century. Rheinberger seems to have revived the idea of the organ concerto with his Opus 137 in 1884 and, buoyed by its success, created a companion, Opus 177, a decade later which we will have the opportunity to hear. Keep in mind that at about this same time in France, Widor, Guilmant and Saint-Saens were writing 'organ symphonies’ (with orchestra), and so things really started to get moving again. In fact, Rheinberger’s young American student, Horatio Parker, who played that 1884 premiere, a few years later created his own similar score, and through the 20th century, with the rise of touring organ recitalists came an increase in compositions for organ and orchestra both in Europe and here in the USA.
It is interesting to remember, though, that Rheinberger’s star had fallen early in the 20th century, because his music was conservative and old-fashioned (also melodious and thoughtfully constructed), and the post-war Baroque Revival further redirected audience attention. By curious coincidence, it was one of the best known of the organ world’s 'Baroque backers’, and the first to record all sixteen of Handel’s organ concertos on an instrument that Handel himself had designed, E. Power Biggs, who sparked a Rheinberger Revival, first with a 1957 LP release of a Rheinberger sonata, and then in 1973 with the first recording that featured both of Rheinberger’s concertos…previously unrecorded…on a single disc! Though that seminal Biggs recording is not officially available, these days you can find multiple other capable performances of the Rheinberger Concertos, as well as of his 20 organ solo sonatas…a rich repast definitely worth your further exploration. Our Rheinberger soloist, Jeffrey Brillhart is music director for Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and on the faculty of Yale University!
How did the organ-and-orchestral repertoire fair in later years? Our next blog post will explore that legacy. Check back on Tuesday, January 7.
About our Guest Blogger: Michael Barone has been employed at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media for 45 years, for a quarter-century as music director and more recently as host/producer of national classical broadcasts such as PIPEDREAMS. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, and awards from the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers have paid tribute to his lifelong contributions to the world of music.
This show is part of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ Series, and is co-presented by The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Organ performances are made possible through a donation by the Fred J. Cooper Restoration Fund as recommended by Frederick R. Haas and Daniel K. Meyer.