In his attention to the demands of the liturgy, ideals of musical reform in worship during the 19th century, and contemporary compositional practices, Rheinberger reflected his environment in the Marianische Hymnen, opus 171 and the Missa in g, opus 187. Although little documentation exists regarding the origins of these compositions, clearly they were intended for Catholic worship. Syllabic, homophonic settings of Latin texts feature graceful yet restrained organ accompaniments functioning to support the voices while revealing the liturgical practices of the period. Furthermore, diary entries by both Rheinberger and his wife reveal that the composer occasionally prepared works for treble voices with the Royal Choir at All Saints Court Church where he was Hofkapellmeister beginning in 1877. While revealing liturgical influences, these compositions also bring to light certain ideals of musical reform in worship which were common during Rheinberger’s time; more specifically, attentiveness to textual clarity and influences of plainchant shape the motets and the mass. In addition to Rheinberger’s consideration of liturgical demands, his philosophy regarding contemporary practices in worship music is also revealed in the lyrical, sweeping melodies and chromatically rich harmonies found throughout these compositions.
Although much has been written about Rheinberger’s organ compositions, little information exists about his choral works, particularly those for women’s chorus. With new editions having been recently published by Carus-Verlag in Stuttgart, Germany, these compositions—as well as all of Rheinberger’s compositions—are more readily accessible to conductors and choruses today. Therefore, information which is available about these works is beneficial to conductors of women’s choruses. These compositions afford musical challenges and rewarding performance opportunities for women’s chorus and this document provides analyses, rehearsal and performance considerations for each work, and a context within which the compositions can be understood. Central to the discussions regarding the context for these works are Rheinberger’s counter-position against the Cecilian reform movement and his stylistic characteristics reflecting both Classical and Romantic tendencies. With this document one may realize the dramatic potential inherent within this music and understand how it so appropriately reflected the philosophy of the composer.