2015-11-08 Notes from the Bench

Requiem in E-flat Major (Op. 84) by Josef Rheinberger

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


November is a month of remembrance: that moment during the liturgical year when Christians pause and remember all those who have gone before us into eternal life. This evening, November 8, the All Saints’ community will celebrate a Solemn Requiem in remembrance of all those of our parish who have recently died. Customs of commemoration and praying for the souls of the departed can be traced back to pre-Apostolic times; the Jewish people prayed for the eternal rest of the deceased’s immortal souls.

The Requiem, Mass for the Dead, or the Missa pro Defunctis (Mass of the “finished”), is traditionally observed on November 2, and at the time or anniversary of one’s death or burial. The term Requiem is taken from the text of the Introit chant, “requiem aeternam dona eis” (rest eternal grant unto them), and is applied both to the liturgical celebration and the musical genre. During our Solemn Requiem for All Souls, the Senior Choir will sing Josef Rheinberger’s Requiem in E-flat major, Op. 84.



Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) was an organist and composer, born in Liechtenstein but lived most of his life in Munich, Germany. Rheinberger was a child prodigy, playing organ and writing compositions at an early age, he was gainfully employed as an organist by age 15 and has composed over 100 works by the time he was 20. He studied music at the Academy of Music in Munich. Later, Rheinberger was a sought-after professor of organ and composition at the Royal School of Music and was a researcher and advocate of ancient music, a position he held from 1867 until 1900. In 1877, he was appointed conductor for the court and the royal chapel in Munich. Rheinberger made significant contributions to sacred choral and organ music during the late-nineteenth century. His works are stylistically rooted in the language of nineteenth-century romanticism, influenced by composers such as Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Schubert, and combined with elements of contrapuntal writing inspired by the Renaissance masters and Bach. Opus 84, composed in 1867, demonstrates how Rheinberger mixes elements of polyphony with homophony and how he colors traditional classic harmony with late-romantic chromaticism.


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