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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Organ Works: Volume 6: Chorale Fantasia on 'Alle Menschen müssen sterben', Op. 52 No. 1 (1900) [17'13]; Six Trios, Op. 47 (1900) [17'43]; Introduction, Variations and Fugue in F sharp minor on an Original Theme, Op. 73 (1903) [37'13]
Martin Welzel (organ)
rec. Klais organ, Trier Cathedral, Germany, 8-9 July 2003. DDD

Martin Welzel is clearly a fine player. He is a student of the renowned Wolfgang Rübsam - Rübsam is the producer of this recording, by the way - and has clearly gained the measure of Reger's often difficult realm. More than anywhere in his output Reger's rather severe musical persona as it emerges in his organ music means one either loves or hates this sound-world.

Difficult to imagine a more staunch advocate than Welzel. In the most extended work here, the Introduction, Variations and Fugue, Op. 73, Welzel's long-range thought - and it has to be long-range the work is over 37 minutes long! - triumphs to provide a listening experience as varied as it is enriching. The piece moves from a hyper-dark, chromatic, not to mention unsettling, opening through to an extended set of variations with far-reaching and absolutely fascinating harmonic explorations and a separately-tracked five-minute Fugue. The preparation for the fugue is required listening, the final few minutes of the variations seeming to peter out almost mystically before the intensity of the fugue's contrapuntal workings. The climax is truly impressive; there is no engineer credited, merely 'RMC Classical Music Inc. USA'.

The Chorale Fantasia, Op. 52 No. 1 begins in rather muffled fashion, opening out magnificently. Admittedly it is easy to see where Reger gets his rather dour reputation from, but it is equally easy to hear Welzel giving his all to present the piece in the best possible light. The moment of repose around 14'10 is a particular highlight.

The set of Six Trios, Op. 47, was published in 1900, placing it as contemporary with Op. 52 No. 1. The six trios all have titles (Canon; Gigue; Kanzonetta; Scherzo; Siciliano; Fugue). They present a varied little collection, from the peaceful Canon, through the rather sweet Gigue - some acoustic blurring here, though - to the expressive 'Kanzonetta', past a rather muddy Scherzo and a nicely angular Siciliano to a final C minor Fugue. It is in this latter movement that Reger is most at home; superb fingerwork from Welzel.

This Reger series from is to be applauded and supported. I welcomed Volume 5 back in June 2005 (review); I welcome this volume just as much if anything, even more.

Colin Clarke



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