JULIUS REUBKE: The Keyboard Works = Scherzo; Mazurka; Sonata in B-flat minor – John Owings, piano; Trio in E-flat; Sonata on the 94th Psalm – H. Joseph Butler, organ – Pro Organo

by | May 23, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

JULIUS REUBKE: The Keyboard Works = Scherzo; Mazurka; Sonata in B-flat minor – John Owings, piano; Trio in E-flat; Sonata on the 94th Psalm – H. Joseph Butler, organ – Pro Organo Multichannel SACD 7201, 66:46 ****:

There’s something most satisfying about owning all of the extant compositions of one composer on recordings.  Last month we gave away two 160-CD sets of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach, for example. Well, Reubke was one of the those short-lived composers – probably due to TB; he only lived long enough to compose all the works for piano and pipe organ held on this single disc. Modest in size as it is compared to the Bach set, it is still a recording premiere.

Reubke lived in Germany in the mid-1850s and wrote in the Germanic 19th century Romantic style. Mendelssohn was a strong influence on him – the Scherzo seems inspired by some of the Midsummer Night’s Dream music.  And the Mazurka clearly is in the Chopin camp. Liszt appears to be the model for Reubke’s monumental Piano Sonata, but in spite of similarities in technique and structure, Reubke even outdoes the master of Weimar in some respects.

However, it is the Sonata for Organ that is the prize work on this disc – surely the equal of the best of Franck, Liszt and others. Liszt was unusual of 19th century keyboard composers in having written substantially for the organ, but Reubke went him one better by creating textures more idiomatic to the organ than the piano, giving more of an independent bass line, and even specifying the registration – which Liszt had not done. The work is a tone poem using passages taken from Psalm 94.  It speaks of God’s vengeance on the wicked and delivers some avenging and passionate music as fitting to the texts. The work concludes in a resolute and brilliant final fugue. A large organ in Ft. Worth was used, in an acoustic environment sounding like European cathedrals. This is a thrilling 25-minute work!

 – John Sunier

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