2013-09-22 Notes from the Bench

“Missa Misericordias Domini” by Josef Rheinberger

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

Today, our chamber choir will be singing the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei from Rheinberger’s Missa Misericordias Domini (Mass of the Mercy of the Lord). Additionally, they are singing two of his sacred motets.

Laudate Dominum, quia benignus est:
Praise ye the Lord, for He is good:
psallite nomini ejus, quoniam suavis est:
sing ye to His Name, for He is sweet:
omnia quaecumque voluit,
whatsoever He pleased,
fecit in coelo et in terra.
He hath done in heaven and in earth.

Dextera Domini fecit virtutem,
The right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength;
dextera Domini exaltavit me.
the right hand of the Lord has exalted me.
Non moriar, sed vivam,
I shall not die, but live,
et narrabo opera Domini.
and declare the works of the Lord.


Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) was a German composer, organist, and distinguished teacher. Born in Liechtenstein, Josef was the son of the treasurer for Prince Aloys II. As a child, Rheinberger displayed exceptional musical talent; was composing at an early age and by age seven, was serving as the organist for the parish church of Vaduz. In 1851, he began his formal music training at the Munich Conservatory where he would later hold a faculty position, teaching piano and composition and later appointed Royal Professor of organ and composition. In 1877, Rheinberger was appointed court conductor for the royal chapel in Munich and was later awarded an honorary PhD degree from the University of Munich.

As a composer, Rheinberger was influenced by the works of Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, and Johann Sebastian Bach, demonstrating a mastery of contrapuntal techniques while writing with the spirit of romanticism. Rheinbergers oeuvre include several operas, symphonies, sacred music, organ pieces, and chamber music works. Among his religious music are twelve mass settings, a Requiem, a Stabat Mater, and numerous motets. Rheinberger’s organ compositions, which include sonatas, trios, meditations, and fughettos, are elaborate and challenging, and are considered valuable additions to nineteenth century organ repertoire.

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