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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1
Sonata No 5 in F Sharp Minor, Op. 84 (1905) [32.41]
Sonata No 1 in D Minor, Op. 1 (1890) [27.46]
Ulf Wallin (violin)
Roland Pontinen (piano)
Recorded: Jan 1998 in DeutschlandRadio Studio 10, Berlin.
CPO 999 452 2 [60.30]
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As the rather earnest, proselytising liner notes make clear, compositions for the combination of violin and piano represent a significant part of Reger's oeuvre. CPO has launched a project to record all seven of his sonatas for violin and piano. On the evidence of this disc it is hard to imagine other players could be more persuasive advocates of this repertoire than Ulf Wallin and Roland Pontinen.

The Fifth sonata is a work from Reger's maturity. It is cast in three movements of which the second, an allegretto, lasts less than three minutes. The opening allegro moderato is a movement of great intensity which is performed here with all the necessary feeling and virtuosity. In the succeeding allegretto Reger deliberately relaxes the tension and this little movement offers a welcome and necessary interlude between the larger, much more serious outer movements.

The finale combines two of Reger's favourite forms, an andante theme and seven variations followed by a lively fugue. Like the rest of the music on this disc it is delivered by the artists with the utmost commitment.

The Sonata No. 1 was written while Reger was still a student. It may be an immature work by comparison with the Fifth Sonata but no one would infer this from the performance which Wallin and Pontinen give. The harmonic language and the thematic material is, understandably, more "traditional" than that of the Fifth sonata but it is still an impressive achievement. This time there are four movements, including a rapt adagio in which, as the author of the notes observes, there are heavy influences of Beethoven and Brahms: I thought the latter was more obvious and far from unwelcome.

Previously I had only been acquainted with Reger's orchestral music together with some of his organ and vocal pieces. This disc, superbly executed by these two Swedish musicians, was therefore a welcome discovery. For admirers of Reger it will be an essential purchase, notwithstanding the hideous picture on the front of the booklet.

John Quinn

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