Skip to main content


Carl Reinecke. Photograph, c.1870. © Sammlung Schönknecht Leipzig Carl Reinecke-Museum.

Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)

June 2024

Carl Heinrich Carsten Reinecke (b. Altona, 23 June 1824; d. Leipzig, 10 March 1910).

Obituary from The Musical Times, 1 April 1910.


The death of Carl Heinrich Carsten Reinecke, at Leipsic, on March 10, removes a musician whose work, carried on unobtrusively, has left a strong mark upon the present generation of composers and artists.  Although he was a prolific composer, he exerted his greatest influence as a teacher in the position of Professor of Composition and Director of Studies at the Leipsic Conservatoire, an institution with which he was connected for over forty years.

He was born at Altona, on June 23, 1824, and made an early entry into the field of musical activity.  At the age of eleven he appeared in public.  The few succeeding years he spent in developing his skill as a pianist and acquiring the abilities of an orchestral violin player.  His early manhood was largely spent in European tours, and frequent change of residence from one musical centre to another.  After a short period of study in Leipsic, where he was privileged with the friendship of Schumann and Mendelssohn, he undertook a concert tour which brought him under the notice of Christian VIII. of Denmark, with the result that he resided at Copenhagen in the King’s service from 1846 to 1848.  Travels in Italy and a visit to Paris were followed, on his return to Germany, by his appointment as professor of the pianoforte and counterpoint to the Conservatorium of Cologne.  His next position was that of musical director at Barmen, from which, after five years, he passed to a similar post at Breslau.  In the following year, 1860, he entered upon his long and illustrious connection with the Leipsic Conservatoire as conductor of the Gewandhaus concerts and professor of composition.  He continued to appear in public as a pianist, and on two occasions, in 1869 and 1872, visited England, where he played at Philharmonic concerts.  In 1895 he resigned his conductorship and in 1897 became Director of Studies.  In 1902 he retired.

As a composer he gave constant expression to his musicianship and artistic ideals, but he cannot be said to have revealed a creative mind of great individuality.  His style often betrayed his admiration for the works of Schumann and Mendelssohn, and advanced but little beyond their school.  Considerable popularity has been enjoyed by his cantatas for female voices and a number of his pianoforte pieces.  He occasionally essayed the larger forms and wrote operas, Masses, concertos and symphonies.  An example of his art that concealed science as well as itself is seen in his Twelve Canons for ladies’ voices, which are published in Novello’s series.  He was enormously active as a musical editor.

He will be remembered as a great educational worker ; his compositions are worthy of regard in so much as they illustrate by example his teaching of aesthetic principles.  In many countries his memory will be cherished by musicians who came under his inspiring influence.  He was buried on March 13, at Leipsic.

From The Musical Times, 1 May 1910.


By Fritz von Bose, Professor at the Conservatoire, Leipsic.

With the death at Leipsic on March 10 of Carl Reinecke, the last noteworthy representative of the Mendelssohn-Schumann period, a chapter of musical history has been closed.  His long and happy life of nearly eighty-six years, rich not only in labour but also in great achievements, is ended, and deeply he is mourned by countless people who had the good fortune to learn from him, whether as an artist or a personal friend, and especially by those to whom it was given to stand at the master’s side till the last, and to refresh themselves at the spring of his noble, winning personality and never-resting intellect.

The thought alone that he first saw the light of the world when Beethoven, Schubert and Goethe were still among the living, and that he was in personal contact with Mendelssohn and Schumann, inspires a certain feeling of reverence for him.

For nearly fifty years Reinecke lived at Leipsic, and during thirty-five years of that time he was Kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus concerts, and for forty-two years was connected with the Conservatorium, first as Professor and later as Director of Studies.  He was an artist of truly aristocratic and fine feeling, one who as pianist or conductor invariably made his own personality subordinate to the work he was interpreting.  All who have heard him in his best years play a Mozart concerto, or the C minor of Beethoven, or have seen him conduct a classical symphony in the Gewandhaus, must have received an impression never to be forgotten.  As composer his versatility and wealth of invention, even to the last, were astounding ; he touched nearly every side of musical art, and did much noble work.  His compositions, which sometimes show the influence of Mendelssohn and Schumann, but yet preserve their own individual character, are always written with a complete mastery of form.  Many of them will live : amongst these must surely be reckoned his pianoforte pieces dedicated to young musicians (der musikalischen Jugend gewidmet), the children’s songs, and the charming fairy-tale compositions.

His artistic successes did not alter the modesty of his personal requirements, and he was never more happy than in his family circle.  Friends who were privileged to meet him at home, could always learn something from his conversation, from which a certain fine sense of humour was never missing.  He was never tired of telling of his meetings with great artists :  Schumann, Liszt, H. W. Ernst and Jenny Lind, among others.  For Liszt, who always visited him when he came to Leipsic, as a man, he entertained the highest respect : he often remarked how much he regretted that he could not think so highly of him as a composer.

Reinecke had an unusual gift for the expression of humour in music, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his delightful children’s operas, ‘Glückskind und Pechvogel’ (1883), ‘Die Teufelchen auf der Himmelswiese’ (1898), and ‘Traumfriedel’ (1906).  Often also in the little performances in the home circle he would at a moment’s notice improvise with rare art variations on the works of favourite composers.

To this happy side of his genius belongs the master’s last work, Op. 286, the proofs of which were ready a few days before his death.  It is composed to Hans Andersen’s ‘Fairy-tale of the Swineherd,’ as a duet for pianoforte, and is dedicated to Queen Alexandra, of whose fondness for Andersen’s fairy-tales he was aware.  The work forms a sister composition to the music to Hoffmann’s ‘Märchen vom Nussknacker und Mausekönig’ (written more than fifty years before), which helped to establish Reinecke’s fame.

His last work will help to keep his name alive, and many who knew him will play it and remember its creator, and see him before them, a noble, kindly old man with silver locks and gentle eyes, whose heart was pure and simple as a child’s, and whose motto was : ‘Art should bring happiness to mankind!’.


We would like to thank Stefan Schönknecht who runs the Carl Reinecke Museum in Leipzig for permission to use his great-great-grandfather’s image.

For a celebration of his birthday on 23rd June see