Orchestral music by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger
In contrast to the large number of sacred and secular vocal works, the organ and piano works, Rheinberger’s oeuvre includes only about a dozen compositions for orchestra – if one ignores the unpublished works of his youth, written before about 1860. The early Wallenstein-Sinfonie op. 10 (1866), a program symphony, was in its time one of the most frequently performed of all symphonies in German-speaking countries. Along with it mention should be made, especially, of his second symphony, the Florentiner Sinfonie op. 87, written in 1874/75 for a commission by an orchestral society in Florence and whose composition was greatly inspired by a visit which Rheinberger and his wife made to Italy.
As his third major orchestral work the Piano Concerto in A flat, op. 94 (1876) deserves attention. These three principal works were flanked by three concert overtures, including the Akademische Ouvertüre op. 195 of 1898, which Rheinberger wrote in connection with his award of an honorary doctorate by the University of Munich. The other works mentioned date from the 1860s and 1870s, after which, in the area of fully scored orchestral music, Rheinberger concentrated on arrangements of some of his own works for organ and works for piano four hands.
The two organ concertos op. 137 and op. 177 (with small orchestra), as well as the Suite op. 149 for organ, violin and cello (with string orchestra ad lib.) point, even in this area of instrumental music, to the great importance of church music in Rheinberger’s life and work, especially following his appointment as Court Kapellmeister in 1877.