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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Ave Maria, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger

Josef Gabriel Rheinberger was a composer, organist, and teacher, born in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, on March 17, 1839, and died in Munich, Nov. 25, 1901. Rheinberger revealed precocious musical talent when he began his piano studies at five years of age. At seven he served as church organist and at eight composed a three-part Mass with organ accompaniment. After harmony studies under P. Schmutzer at Feldkirch, in 1851 he enrolled at the Munich Conservatory, where he studied organ with Herzog, piano with Leonhard, and counterpoint with J. J. Maier.

Thereafter he taught at the conservatory from 1855 to 1859, and then at the Royal Music School, and was assistant director of the court opera from 1865 to 1867. In subsequent years he was a royal professor and inspector of school music, director of the court chapel, and director of the oratorio society. He was named to the nobility of Bavaria in 1894, and received a doctorate from the University of Munich in 1899.

Employing his solid background and mastery of composition, he wrote prolifically for both instrumental and vocal media, much of his output comprising Masses, motets, cantatas, and other religious forms. His organ works, especially the sonatas, rank among the best for that instrument from the romanticist period. A renowned and much sought-after teacher, he influenced many younger composers. His American pupils included George W. Chadwick (1854–1931) and Horatio Parker (1863–1919), both of whom became distinguished members of the Boston group of composers.


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