Carl Reinecke, called one of the “friends from the Rhine”, submissively followed the call of the
adored Brahms. Wagner’s ecstasies and Liszt’s daring were not his cup of tea at all, he was a “Schumannian” with heart and soul and had no problem with being called an epigone. Reinecke was born and raised in Altona in an environment similar to that of Brahms, who was nine years his junior and grew up in Hamburg. He lost his mother to the wretched consumption when he was 5 years old.
The father had worked his way up from the poorest of circumstances to being a successful music teacher. He remained a widower all his life and was an early example of a single parent. “He played with the children and took walks with them on Sunday afternoons, he told them fairytales and taught them reading, writing and music from a very young age on,” the son later recalled. Carl had poor health and was lavished with care and attention and lived to be 86 years old
in the end. He is one of those composers who are still rooted deeply in the classical and romantic periods and died in a time when Schönberg was already abolishing tonality. All of his life he was an endearing, modest, yet active musician. He was pianist at the Danish court and considered one of the best Mozart players of his time.
From 1860 to 1895, he was the musical director of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig. The line-up of his pupils, among them Edvard Grieg and Max Bruch, is impressive. He lost two beloved wives following childbirth, the obituary of the third is suffering to this day from the strong antipathy she caused in another prominent pupil, Leoš Janáček. Pictures of the old Reinecke, who had nine children, show a kind person.
As loving as Carl’s father was, as inﬂuential he was, too. For fear of
the father after a piano string had broken, he had “seen the truly wonderful magical world” in a daydream which “did not leave him for the rest of his life”, the son wrote in his memoirs. The world of fairytales was a safe realm of dreams for the composer. A safe as the world of the idols of his youth, Mendelssohn and Schumann, whom he both knew personally. Reinecke’s oeuvre may be eclectic, yet it has its own charms through its ﬁnely woven, deeply romantic emotions and considerable melodic quality. The catalogue of his works goes up to number 288 and includes all genres. Even in 1910, the year of his death, Reinecke wrote a wondrously timeless ballad for ﬂute and orchestra. The 3 Fantasy Pieces op. 43
were created 53 years before then, during his time as musical director in Barmen. The short Romance, a lyrical andante movement in A-ﬂat Major, combines the dark viola voice with the sparkling piano. The Allegro in F Major might tell of happy and reﬂective hours in spring surrounded by friends. The closing Humoresque in G Major, a “Vanity fair scene”, begins “boisterously and
with unbridled cheer” – and remains thus, exuberantly citing an “old folk song in the manner of a minstrel”.