Dramatic music by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger

In December 1865 Josef Gabriel Rheinberger was appointed as a solo répétiteur at the Royal Court and National Theatre in Munich. Although he accepted this position largely for financial reasons, Rheinberger undoubtedly also saw it as an opportunity for him to become familiar with a world of music with which he had hitherto had little contact. He must have been painfully aware of his lack of theatrical experience when in 1860 he began work on his opera Die sieben Raben . Perhaps he hoped to be able to add to his natural lyrical gift the necessary dramatic elements. The consequence of his new experience of the theatre was that he radically revised his first viable opera, which received its world première in May 1869. In 1872 Rheinberger began work on a second opera. A year later Türmers Töchterlein received its first performance. Even though – as in the first work – the lyrical music was superior to its dramatic passages, the new opera was more successful than its predecessor and as late as 1887 Richard Strauss conducted this work at the Court Opera.

Even before Rheinberger began work as a répétiteur he had written Der arme Heinrich , a “comic Singspiel for children,” an agreeable and naïve work with a remarkable overture in the spirit of Schubert. This unassuming work was followed 18 years later by another “Singspiel for the world of the young,” a story from Hauff's Kalif Storch told with music under the title Das Zauberwort . With the simplest scoring – both Singspiele need only a piano to accompany the voices – these pieces soon found their way into schools and children's theatres, where their performances are being positively received.

Josef Gabriel Rheinberger: Die sieben Raben

Rheinberger was inspired to compose his first opera by the great cycle of aquarelles entitled “Von den Sieben Raben” by the painter Moritz von Schwind (1804–1871), with whom he was...