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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Max REGER (1873-1916)
Violin Sonatas

Sonata for Violin and Piano in C major Op. 72 (1903) ¹
Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor Op. 139 (1915) ²
Renate Eggebrecht, violin
Wolfram Lorenzen, piano¹
Siegfried Mauser, piano²
Recorded in Bauer Studios, Ludwigsburg, 24th-27th November 1996..
TROUBADISC TRO-CD 01413 [69.14]

Troubadisc

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Reger is, like, say, Hindemith, not the most fashionable of composers to champion but everything of his that I have encountered, including the music on this disc, has been at the very least interesting and often a great deal more. The two violin sonatas represent in one case his midpoint (exactly! he composed 146 works!) and in the other a very late offering produced in the penultimate year of his life. That said, by today's standards 43 might well be regarded as still being a youthful phase! Both works are highly listenable and the exhaustive booklet notes tend to over-analyse and intellectualise music that is perfectly capable of speaking for itself.

The earlier C major work had its genesis in a request to depict "the history of the sonata for violin and piano from Bach to the present day". However, despite the notorious (at the time!) musical motifs of sheep and monkeys, the sonata, cast in four movements, is hardly likely to shock today except perhaps those who have been led to believe that Reger was a dullard, musically speaking at least! In fact, it seems quite quaint to read that the work, as did Strauss's Sinfonia Domestica(!), established its composer's enfant terrible status in Germany. Whatever, it is rather more forward-looking than might be expected, and the third movement excepted, a hive of activity. It is also, as the booklet says, a reminder that "Bach is ever present in Reger's work", no matter what other influences come and go.

The late Op. 139 sonata is a product of Reger's final creative spurt after his move to Jena. Despite being acknowledged as a more classically restrained piece, it nevertheless at times invokes Debussy at his most impressionistic. It has also been regarded as being indicative of Reger's status as "the composer of German melancholy". The four movement structure, with the Largo placed second this time, ends with a wistful set of variations. It may be seen as a personal valediction or one for a musical world radically recast by the Second Viennese School. Formerly regarded as avant-garde himself, however surprising that now seems, Reger, in this beautiful if resigned piece, appeared to be accepting that times had changed. As this release ably demonstrates, his star, and those of many like-minded contemporaries - e.g. Schreker - who may come under the same, vague "late-Romantic" banner, is now once again in the ascendant. The performances here are very well played and recorded and stand up well against similar works by Strauss and Brahms on a Chandos CD I have recently been listening to. Far more interesting than you might imagine!


Neil Horner


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