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Sent into the shadows by Simon Callaghan ✶✶✶✶

Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger

De Volkskrant, Merlijn Kerkhof

The name of Josef Rheinberger is nowadays hardly ever encountered on concert programs. Only organ lovers will almost certainly come into contact with the work of the man from Liechtenstein (1839-1901). The Cantilena from his Eleventh organ sonata, made famous in the Netherlands by Feike Asma, is the only ‘hit’ that has stood the test of time.

A new CD with his Piano Concerto proves that there is still much to be gained from Rheinberger’s comprehensive oeuvre, who by the age of seven had already composed masses and was highly regarded in his time.

The recording can be found in the series, The Romantic Piano Concerto by the British label, Hyperion. On this volume 76 Simon Callaghan is soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, led by the young conductor Ben Gernon.

After an optimistic theme follows a sparkling musical argument in which the focus is on the piano (the orchestra part in the first movement, moderato, contains a lot of unison), but in which the musical trapeze acts are not forthcoming. Characteristic is the cadenza, which begins with a quasi-fugue that reminds one of Beethoven. Fleeting references to Schumann and Brahms are also heard, but never does one think: I’ve heard this before. It is a lovely piece by an intelligent composer who sought the adventure in miniatures.

The handful of extant recordings are sent into the shadows by this version. Gernon’s tempi are more convincing and Callaghan’s playing breathes pleasure into the music.

The other piano concerto on the album, that of Brahms-admirer Bernhard Scholz (1835-1916), is also worthwhile.

With the name Rheinberger you may not sell tickets (yet), but his piano concerto should certainly be able to conquer hearts. Who will put him on concert programmes in the Netherlands?

Loose translation of the review which originally appeared in Dutch, as below 

De naam van Josef Rheinberger kom je tegenwoordig nauwelijks meer tegen op concertprogramma’s. Alleen orgelliefhebbers komen vrijwel zeker met het werk van de man uit Liechtenstein (1839-1901) in aanraking. De Cantilena uit zijn Elfde orgelsonate, in Nederland beroemd gemaakt door Feike Asma, is de enige ‘hit’ die is blijven plakken.

Een nieuwe cd met zijn Pianoconcert bewijst dat er nog veel valt te halen uit het veelomvattende oeuvre van Rheinberger, die op zijn zevende al missen componeerde en in zijn tijd hoog werd aangeslagen.

De opname is te vinden in de reeks The Romantic Piano Concerto van het Britse label Hyperion. Op dit volume 76 soleert Simon Callaghan bij het BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, dat onder leiding staat van de jonge dirigent Ben Gernon.

Na een optimistisch thema volgt een sprankelend muzikaal betoog waarin het gewicht weliswaar bij de piano ligt (het orkestaandeel zit in het eerste deel, Moderato, nog erg in de unisono-sfeer), maar waarin de muzikale trapeze-acts uitblijven. Tekenend is de cadens, die begint met een quasi-fuga die aan Beethoven doet denken. Vleugjes Schumann en Brahms hoor je ook, maar nergens denk je: dit heb ik eerder gehoord. Het is een lieflijk stuk van een intelligent componist die het avontuur zocht in het kleine.

De handvol opnames die er al waren worden door deze uitvoering in de schaduw gezet. Gernons tempi overtuigen en Callaghans spel ademt plezier. Ook het andere pianoconcert op het album, dat van Brahms-bewonderaar Bernhard Scholz (1835-1916), is de moeite waard.

Met de naam Rheinberger verkoop je misschien (nog) geen kaartjes, maar zijn pianoconcert moet zeker harten kunnen veroveren. Wie zet hem eens op de lessenaars in Nederland?

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05/08/2020