Josef Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901), showed exceptional musical talent at an early age. At the age of 7 was already serving as organist of the Vaduz parish church, and his first composition was performed the following year. In 1851, he entered the Munich Conservatorium, where he later became professor of piano and composition.
The stylistic influences on Rheinberger ranged from contemporaries such as Brahms to composers from earlier times, such as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schubert and, above all, Bach. He was also an enthusiast for painting and literature (especially English and German).
In 1877 he was appointed court conductor, responsible for the music in the royal chapel. He was later awarded an honorary doctorate by Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. A distinguished teacher, he numbered many Americans among his pupils. Other pupils of his included important figures from Europe. When the second Munich Conservatorium was founded, Rheinberger was appointed Royal Professor of organ and composition, a post he held for the rest of his life.
Rheinberger was a prolific composer. His religious works include twelve Masses, a Requiem and a Stabat Mater. His other works include several operas, symphonies, chamber music, and choral works.
Today he is remembered primarily for his elaborate and challenging organ compositions; these include two concertos, 20 sonatas in 20 different keys (of a projected set of 24 sonatas in all the keys), 22 trios, and 36 solo pieces. His organ sonatas were once declared to be: "undoubtedly the most valuable addition to organ music since the time of Mendelssohn. They are characterized by a happy blending of the modern Romantic spirit with masterly counterpoint and dignified organ style."
Rheinberger died in 1901, and was buried in the Alter Südfriedhof in Munich. His grave was destroyed during World War II, and his remains were moved to his home town of Vaduz in 1950.