1. Rheingold: Music by Reinecke, Wagner, Bruch & Silcher / Strobos, Gasteren, Ciconia Consort - ArkivMusic

Rheingold / Strobos, Gasteren, Ciconia Consort

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Previous Brilliant Classics albums by this Dutch string orchestra, based in The Hague, have focused on late-Romantic ‘American Pioneers’ (96086) and composers in early 20th-century Paris (95734). Under their founder-director Dick van Gasteren, they now turn to the rich history of Rhineland music from the high-point of its immortalisation in operatic culture as the bedrock of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Das Rheingold itself is present by implication in the cycle of Wesendonck-Lieder which Wagner composed on the shore of Lake Zurich, initially as sketches for Tristan und Isolde, which he had embarked upon as a venture to drum up interest and capital for the larger project of the Ring. Inspired by his intimate association with as well as the poetry of Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant who was underwriting the composer’s sojourn in Zurich, Wagner then developed the songs into a self-contained cycle which throbs with transfigured desire much like the opera. The cycle is sung here by the mezzo-soprano Karin Strobos, whose career was launched by singing Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier at the Netherlands Opera under Sir Simon Rattle. She also sings the album’s notable rarity: a setting of Heine’s Loreley text, which describes the mythical creatures who lure unsuspecting Rhenish sailors to their doom like Greek Sirens. Originally composed as a male-voice partsong by Friedrich Silcher (1798-1860), the song has been transcribed by Dick van Gasteren for Strobos and La Ciconia. Complementing the songs are two unfamiliar but attractive examples of late-Romantic German string music: the Serenade Op.242 by Carl Reinecke, and the Concerto for String Orchestra by Max Bruch. Neither work enjoys more than a toehold on the record catalogue, and this engagingly vivid new recording makes the most persuasive case for them.


Somehow this quartet of pieces brought to my mind the old wedding saw of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” For “something old” there is this Serenade of Carl Reinecke (1824–1910). Although I certainly recognize his name, I cannot recollect ever having heard any of his music before now, but this thoroughly delightful six-movement work shows that his oeuvre warrants further investigation.

For “something new” we have a work by Max Bruch (1838–1920) — the string octet he wrote in 1920, only a few months before his death. In the score, Bruch indicated that the piece was also suitable for performance by a full string orchestra, and upon publication of that version his publisher Simrock attached the title “Concerto.” While the octet has enjoyed no less than six previous recordings in its original form, this is the first one for full orchestra, and thus makes a welcome addition to the Bruch discography.

“Something borrowed” comes in the guise of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, in a 2006 reduction for string orchestra by Gerhard Heydt. Frankly, I’m not certain what the point of this exercise is; certainly Wagner is hardly in need of reorchestration, and a good degree of tonal color is lost in subtracting woodwinds and brass. Mezzo-soprano Karin Strobos has a reasonably attractive and well produced but not exceptional voice; she sings with sincerity, but not the degree of subtle inflection these texts and settings require. This was by no means unpleasant to listen to, but there is no strong incentive to return to it.

Finally, for “something blue,” Strobos sings a setting by Friedrich Silcher (1798–1860) of Heinrich Heine’s famous poem of the original Rhine Maiden, whose beautiful appearance and singing lure ships and sailors to destruction. Silcher’s Lied is a bit peculiar in that it’s a lilting, waltz-like ditty, devoid of any darker undertones. Here Strobos and the ensemble are in their proper element.

The Ciconia Consort is further identified as being a nom de guerre for The Hague String Orchestra. Dick van Gasteren directs the players with a sure hand. The recorded sound is warm, with a certain degree of plush resonance. The booklet provides brief notes and song texts in German without translations. Although I would have preferred a full disc of lesser-known German string serenades, this definitely makes for enjoyable listening; cordially recommended.

-- Fanfare (James A. Altena)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 04, 2022

  • Catalog Number: BRI96426

  • UPC: 5028421964263

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Carl Reinecke, Richard Wagner, Max Bruch, Friedrich Silcher

  • Conductor: Dick van Gasteren

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Ciconia Quartet


  1. Serenade in G Minor, Op. 242

    Composer: Carl Reinecke

    Ensemble: Ciconia Quartet

    Conductor: Dick van Gasteren

  2. Wesendonck Lieder

    Composer: Richard Wagner

    Ensemble: Ciconia Quartet

    Performer: Karin Strobos (Mezzo-Soprano)

    Conductor: Dick van Gasteren

  3. String Octet in B-Flat Major

    Composer: Max Bruch

    Ensemble: Ciconia Quartet

    Conductor: Dick van Gasteren

  4. Loreley

    Composer: Friedrich Silcher

    Ensemble: Ciconia Quartet

    Conductor: Dick van Gasteren