(b Altona, 23 June 1824; d Leipzig, 10 March 1910). German composer, teacher, administrator, pianist and conductor. He was given a thorough musical education by his father, J.P. Rudolf Reinecke (b Hamburg, 22 Nov 1795; d Segeberg, 14 Aug 1883), a respected music theoretician and author of several textbooks. From 1845 Reinecke travelled through Europe, from Danzig to Riga; in Copenhagen he was appointed court pianist in 1846, where his duties included accompanying the violinist H.W. Ernst as well as giving solo recitals. He was given a particularly friendly reception in Leipzig by Mendelssohn and the Schumanns, and Liszt, whose daughter was later taught by Reinecke in Paris, spoke of his ‘beautiful, gentle, legato and lyrical touch’. In 1851 he moved to Cologne, where he taught counterpoint and the piano at Hiller’s conservatory. He also gave concerts with Hiller, who recommended him to Barmen. There as musical director and the conductor of several musical societies between 1854 and 1859, he significantly raised the standard of the town’s musical life. He then spent ten months in Breslau as director of music at the university and conductor of the Singakademie.
By 1860 his growing reputation brought him an appointment to teach at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he became the director in 1897. By selecting capable teachers who shared his conservative views and by improving the facilities and the syllabus, Reinecke transformed the conservatory into one of the most renowned in Europe. Grieg, Kretzschmar, Kwast, Muck, Riemann, Sinding, Svendsen, Sullivan and Weingartner were all pupils there; and to this distinguished list could be added many other names of equal repute, showing how exaggerated was the reproach, made particularly in north Germany, that Leipzig was a hotbed of reaction (although this criticism had some justification after 1880). But it cannot be denied that Reinecke considered it his responsibility as director to perpetuate the example of the Classical composers; he was very conscious of his position as a representative and guardian of tradition, and also made it his business to foster the music of the pre-Classical composers, particularly Bach, even exploring as far back as Palestrina. He was a sympathetic teacher who firmly believed in the necessity of a thorough grounding. In Leipzig, he was also the conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra until 1895 (when Nikisch succeeded him); a stern disciplinarian, he achieved a high standard of virtuosity from his players by his insistence on clarity of execution. Reinecke became a member of the Berlin Academy in 1875, received the honorary doctorate in 1884 and became a professor in 1885. He retired in 1902, though his creative work continued until the end of his life.
As a composer Reinecke was best known for his numerous piano compositions, representing virtually every musical form of the time and, despite being influenced by Mendelssohn’s melodic style, was stylistically nearer to Schumann. The exercises for young pianists and the piano sonatinas have become classics because of their charming melodies, as have the canons and nursery rhymes which are highly inventive and totally free from bourgeois sentimentality. Reinecke was a master of the so-called ‘Hausmusik’ and of the simpler forms popular at the time. His chamber music is distinguished and, in the later works in particular, attains a Brahmsian majesty and warmth within a variety of forms. His sonata for flute and piano, Undine, is his most frequently performed work. His most successful concertos are those for flute and for harp, and the first and third for piano, which well display his pleasant melodic sense and his admirable ear for orchestration; the piano concertos avoid grand soloistic mannerisms, and his own style of playing, with hands still and fingers curved, reflected his belief in classical practice. Of his three symphonies, the first employs small forces, while the second is a cyclically organized work on a grand scale. His operas, despite their Wagnerian trappings, were not successful; his better-known musical fairy tales, based in part on his own texts (written under the name Heinrich Carsten), were composed in a tasteful folk-style. Gifted in many fields, he was also a talented painter and poet. His lucidly written books and essays contain many observations still of interest.