> Max Reger - The Complete Works for Clarinet and Piano [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

Max REGER (1875-1916)
The Complete Works for Clarinet and Piano:
Clarinet Sonatas - A flat, Op. 49 No. 1; F sharp minor, Op. 49 No. 2; B flat, Op. 107. Albumblatt in E flat. Romanze in G. Tarantella in G minor.
Ib Hausmann (clarinet); Nina Tichman (piano)
Recorded in the Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany, June 1998-March 1999 [DDD]


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These recordings from the South West German Radio provide a valuable and useful survey of the vastly under-rated Max Reger's output for clarinet and piano by two experienced chamber musicians who obviously share a real affinity for this music. The actual playing order of the disc is carefully considered, also: the three Sonatas (Op. 107 first, then the two Sonatas Op. 49) are interspersed with three shorter pieces.

The figure of Brahms looms large over the two Sonatas that make up Op. 49, and which date from the turn of the twentieth century. Despite its serene opening, the A flat Sonata Op. 49 No. 1 features both Brahmsian outbursts (the influence in the tonal richness of the piano writing is immediately aurally obvious) alongside its more lyrical sections. Hausmann and Tichman elect for a very fast tempo for the Vivace Scherzo, notable for some cheeky playing (a trait also later to enliven the finale). There is a commendably sparing use of the sustaining pedal from Tichman. The second Sonata of the Op. 49 pair provides opportunities for Hausman to show off his seamless cantabile. Most notable is the first movement, marked 'Allegro dolente', in which the intensity of Reger's writing is matched in performance by this duo. The Scherzi of the Op. 49 Sonatas are without a doubt more enjoyable than Reger's reputation as a rather staid and over-academic composer might lead one to believe.

The later Sonata in B flat, Op. 107 dates from the Winter of 1908-9 (it is therefore contemporary with Reger's setting of the 100th Psalm and the 'Symphonic Prologue to a Tragedy'). It is a substantial piece, lasting some 28 minutes. Hausmann and Tichman really come into their own here, both players being particularly sensitive to significant harmonic shifts. Indeed, Reger's use of harmony is little short of compositional virtuosity (the startling juxtaposition of a Wagnerian sound-world with sudden Mozartian purity towards the end of the first movement serves as an excellent example of this).

The three miniatures which on the disc puntuate the three Sonatas were all published in 1902 as an insert in the journal 'Musikwoche'. The 'Albumblatt' and 'Romanze' provide brief and lyrical interludes while the concluding 'Tarantella' acts as a conclusion to this generous programme. Only the 'Romanze' feels slower than its 'Andante con moto' marking, although it has to be admitted that the resultant atmosphere of aching melancholy is effective in its own way.

A most rewarding disc, then, certainly highly recommended and well worth investigating. There are no significant contenders for this programme. Both instrumentalists are accomplished musicians of the highest order (for more information on Tichman, call up www.ninatichman.com).

Colin Clarke

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