Requiem in D Minor, Op 194 - Josef Rheinberger (1839 - 1901)




 1     Requiem (‘Grant them eternal rest...’) Kyrie, eleison (‘Lord, have mercy’)

 2     Tractus (‘Absolve, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed’ )

 3     Offertorium (‘Lord Jesus Christ  ...’

4     Hostias (‘We offer prayers and sacrifice to you, O Lord ...’)

5     Sanctus (‘Holy, Holy, Holy ...’)

6     Benedictus (‘ Blessed is the man who comes in the name of the Lord.’)

7     Agnus Dei (‘Lamb of God ...)


Josef Gabriel Rheinberger was born in Liechtenstein but spent his whole working life in Munich. He knew many of the leading German composers of his day, including Wagner and Liszt as well as Brahms and Bruckner. His made his reputation as an organist and as a composer of works for the organ. But after 1877, when he was appointed Director of the Court Chapel Choir, he put more emphasis on choral music. One of the first fruits of this new emphasis was the delightful Mass in E Flat

Rheinberger completed three settings of the Requiem Mass.  His Requiem in D minor, written in 1900, was one of his last compositions. It is written for soloists and choir with organ accompaniment.
A requiem is a mass for the dead. It includes several of the usual sections of a mass, notably the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. But two key sections of the ordinary mass are usually omitted: the Gloria and the Credo. Instead there is a selection of prayers for the departed and sometimes reflections on death and its implications. The name comes from the first word of the opening and often concluding section: ‘Requiem’ means ‘rest’.
Rheinberger’s Requiem in D minor is very different from the better-known setting by his older contemporary, Verdi. Notably absent is the Dies irae (‘Day of Wrath’), a melodramatic highlight of Verdi’s setting. Also missing is the Pie Jesu that is an emotional highpoint of other settings. Rheinberger’s setting is by contrast concise and restrained.
At one time Rheinberger had been tempted to imitate the musical styles of the past. He did so in one of his earlier settings of the Requiem. But his later work reflects his considered view that religious music should be recognisably of its own time. The Requiem we hear tonight is harmonically a work of the late nineteenth century.
At the same time there are frequent reminders of traditional church music and the Catholic liturgy.  For instance at various points a plainsong melody is first sung by the basses and repeated by the rest of the choir, clearly an echo of a congregational response to the words of the priest.
Rheinberger once wrote to a pupil: ‘Music without singability and beauty of sound has no legitimacy ... Music is basically an outpouring of joy and even in pain knows no pessimism.’  In this tuneful, highly singable and often cheerful Requiem he is true to his word.

 Notes by

Stuart Brown


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