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Fairy Tale Preface

Reinecke, Carl: Märchengestalten (Fairy Tale Portraits) op. 147 for piano solo (1878) [EP1p]

edited and published by Michael and Edith Kimbell

Sixteen short, delightful pieces (intermediate level). Contents: Preface, The Stories, Prologue, Cinderella, Pixies, Good Fairy, Turnip-counter, Snow White, The Rye-field Sorceress, The Prince, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, The Seven Dwarfs, Wicked Fairy, Mélusine, Undine, The Rain Spinner, Epilogue (36 pages).

From the Preface: Carl Reinecke (1824-1910), the son and pupil of the theorist J.P.R. Reinecke, was born in Altona, when it was still part of Denmark. He enjoyed a successful, somewhat peripatetic career as concert pianist, conductor and teacher in Copenhagen, Paris, Kiel, Cologne, Barmen, Breslau and Leipzig. In 1860 he became conductor of the Leipzig Gewandwandhaus Orchestra, a position he held for thirty-five years. Simultaneously he was a much sought after professor of piano and composition at the Leipzig Conservatory and became its director in 1897 until he retired in 1902. As pianist he was particularly acclaimed as the interpreter of Mozart’s piano concerti, for which he wrote many cadenzas. He was a friend of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Liszt. A prolific composer of over 288 opus numbers, he wrote in virtually every musical form of the time. Particularly notable are his impeccably polished late works for chamber music and the exquisite compositions for chil- dren. No other composer enters so completely into the child’s view and imagination. His style combines classical concision, directness and wit with a romantic lyricism devoid of sentimental excess.

Like many of his compositions for children, which comprise almost a third of his works, the Märchengestalten (Fairy Tale Portraits) Op. 147, first published in 1878 in both two- and four-hand versions, were originally written for one of his own children. From the Prologue, with its delicate evocation of a mythic past through echoes of the first prelude of Bach’s Well- tempered Clavier, to the dream-like Epilogue, similar in spirit to Schumann’s Träumerei, Reinecke establishes a haunting and magical realm. In this suite of fantasy pieces, “World becomes dream and dream becomes world,” as the German romantic poet Novalis puts it in his novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The title figures are drawn from several different popular collections of fairy tales; the last two, Undine and The Rain Spinner, are evocations of well-known literary fairy tale novellas. As is characteristic of much romantic German fairy tale literature, the emphasis is on the feminine principle. Most of the characters are female: deftly and lyrically drawn young maidens, bewitching water sprites, and powerful fairy women. Except for the prince, who is musically riding off into the distance on a quest that remains unspecified, the other male characters are all supernatural beings: dwarfs, pixies and an ogre are depicted with an exuberant impish humour. The mystery, magic and wonder of fairy tales were a lifelong source of inspiration for Reinecke. Two pieces are taken from his earlier fairy tale cantata Schneewittchen Op. 133: Snow White, a transcription of Snow White’s dawn song of happiness after she has found refuge with the Seven Dwarfs, is a particularly fine example of Reinecke’s deceptively simple folksong-like melodies, and the Seven Dwarfs is a jaunty march as the dwarfs go off to work. Several other figures in this suite receive entirely different settings in his Musical Kindergarten Op. 206; the legend of Undine is also the subject of his famous Flute Sonata Undine Op. 167.

Although the technical difficulties are carefully geared to his young players, these pieces are not overtly didactic. They are intended to cultivate the musical imagination and sensitivity in playing. Throughout his long career Reinecke taught both accomplished pianists and children. A virtuoso in the older playing tradition of Moscheles, Reinecke favoured a technique based on a relatively “quiet” hand position especially suited to expressive and sensitive lyric playing. Most of the composer’s fingerings have been retained in this edition.

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