Frederich Julius Reubke (1834-58) is one of music’s saddest tales. Born in Hausneindorf, Germany, he was the son of an organ and piano builder. After the conclusion of his initial musical training, he moved to Berlin and the entered its conservatory. On the recommendation of conductor Hans von Bülow, Liszt agreed to teach the 21 year old student piano and composition. He moved to Weimar and lived in Liszt’s house. It was there that he composed his two major works, the Piano Sonata in B-flat minor, which he composed from December 1856 to March 1857, and the Sonata on the 94th Psalm in C minor, for organ which he finished a month later. He died from tuberculosis in June of 1857.
The piano sonata is rarely played despite its intrinsic musical worth. It is in three movements. It is a work of great promise unfilled by the scourge of the White Death.
1. Allegro maestoso
2. Andante sostenuto
3. Allegro assai
The piece shows the great influence Liszt had on the very young composer. The great man was deeply affected by his pupil’s premature death. He wrote the following letter to the young man’s father.
Reubke was one of Liszt’s favorite pupils; after his death, Liszt wrote a letter of sympathy to Reubke’s father:
Truly no one could feel more deeply the loss which Art has suffered in your Julius, than the one who has followed with admiring sympathy his noble, constant, and successful strivings in these latter years, and who will ever bear his friendship faithfully in mind
Here is a recording of the sonata performed with great virtuosity by Till Fellner. Reubke Piano Sonata
The Sonata on the 94th Psalm in C minor for organ is regularly played and is considered one of the great pieces for solo organ of the Romantic repertoire. It was not performed until 1871 after it was prepared for publication by the composer’s brother who was also a pianist. It is in three movements with a Program. The Sonata is played by Richard Gowers on the organ of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Amazingly, considering the complexity of the piece given its many registration changes and combination settings, he played it from memory. A bravura performance. Sonata on the 94th Psalm in C minor
I. Grave – Larghetto – Allegro con fuoco – Grave
II. Adagio – Lento
III. Allegro – Più mosso – Allegro assai
The 94th Psalm
(Grave – Larghetto)
1 O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.
Herr Gott, des die Rache ist, erscheine.
2 Arise, thou Judge of the world: and reward the proud after their deserving.
Erhebe Dich, Du Richter der Welt: vergilt den Hoffärtigen, was sie verdienen.
(Allegro con fuoco)
3 Lord, how long shall the ungodly triumph?
Herr, wie lange sollen die Gottlosen prahlen?
6 They murder the widow, and the stranger: and put the fatherless to death.
Witwen und Fremdlinge erwürgen sie und töten die Weisen
7 And yet they say the Lord shall not see: neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.
und sagen: der Herr sieht es nicht an der Gott Jacobs achtet es nicht.
17 If the Lord had not helped me: it had not failed but my soul had been put to silence.
Wo der Herr mir nicht hülfe, so läge meine Seele schier in der Stille.
19 In the multitude of sorrows that I had in my heart: thy comforts have refreshed my soul.
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen, aber deine Tröstungen ergötzen meine Seele.
22 But the Lord is my refuge: and my God is the strength of confidence.
Aber der Herr ist mein Hort und meine Zuversicht.
23 He shall recompense them their wickedness, and destroy them in their own malice.
Er wird ihnen Unrecht vergelten und sie um ihre Bosheit vertilgen.