Rheinberger: Complete Organ Works / Innig

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Although Rudolf Innig concluded his 12-disc cycle of Rheinberger’s complete organ works in 2005, it has taken nearly a decade for MDG to bring it...
Although Rudolf Innig concluded his 12-disc cycle of Rheinberger’s complete organ works in 2005, it has taken nearly a decade for MDG to bring it out as a boxed set. For comprehensiveness alone, it has no competition. Every solo organ piece Rheinberger composed is here, from the 20 sonatas (he intended to write 24 sonatas, one in each key, but death intervened) to collections of short works and miscellaneous pieces. Once past the first disc’s rather academic-sounding preludes, fugues, and miniatures that Rheinberger composed as a student, his mature craftsmanship and contrapuntal mastery quickly come into focus, fusing the formal rigor of Mendelssohn and Brahms, Franck’s adventurous modulations, and Dvorák’s melodic appeal. Rheinberger’s style remained remarkably consistent, although inspiration goes up and down, sometimes within the same work.

My own preference leans toward the later sonatas, particularly No. 14’s exciting Toccata finale, the expressive simplicity of No. 16’s middle movement, and the “fantasy sonata” No. 17’s uplifting fugue. While individual releases in this cycle have met with mixed reviews over the years, I generally warm to Innig’s fluency, command, and tempo choices. To be sure, the closer engineering and marked contrast of registrations characterizing Wolfgang Rubsam’s 8-disc Naxos cycle primarily devoted to the sonatas and Wolfgang Stockmeier’s CPO series of short pieces might be more attractive and easier on the ear to some listeners. The organ-based label Raven also has released a brilliantly engineered Rheinberger sonata cycle featuring Bruce Stevens’ dazzlingly flamboyant performances on a wide variety of American instruments. Still, Innig often fares well via comparative listening.

Take the Eighth Sonata’s large Passacaglia finale, for example. Rubsam’s leaner timbre befits the music’s inherent grace, but Innig’s generally faster basic tempo imparts more drive and drama to the decorative arpeggiated variations. In the charming and unpretentious Op. 174 Miscellaneen, Stockmeier’s sparse registrations in the Scherzoso give its lyrical inner voices and ländler-like character genial due, whereas Innig’s massive sonorities and rhythmic drive suggest something more intense and larger of scale. By contrast, Stockmeier’s slightly square reading of the eloquent lento Betrachtung cannot compare to Innig’s legato control, subtle rubato, and well contoured phrasing between feet and hands. MDG’s table of contents provides online PDF links to the original booklet notes for each volume, plus specifications for each of the six Swiss organs used for these recordings. If Stevens ultimately warrants first choice for the sonatas, Innig nevertheless deserves serious consideration.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 01, 2014

  • UPC: 760623186429

  • Catalog Number: 3171864-2

  • Label: MDG

  • Number of Discs: 12

  • Composer: Joseph Rheinberger, Nicolaus Bruhns

  • Performer: Rudolf Innig