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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Es Sungen Drei Engel: Sacred Choral works Vol. 2

Sieben geistliche, Volkslieder, for chorus SATB
Drei Choralbearbeitungen fur Weihnachten, Neujahr, Epiphanias, for chorus SSA, Op. 79g
Zwolf deutsche geistiche Gesänge, for 5-8 part chorus
NDR Chor Hamburg/Hans-Christoph Rademann
Recorded at the NDR Rolf-Liebermann Studio, Hamburg, June 2003
CARUS CD 83.155 [67:08]
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The German-based choral specialist label Carus are to be heartily congratulated for releasing a fine second volume in their series of Regerís Sacred Choral Works.

Unaccompanied choral music, as illustrated by the small amount of concert performances and the sizeable number of deletions from the catalogue remains unfashionable and has been so for many decades. Choral works from the prolific Bavarian-born Reger and particularly from his fellow-countrymen, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann et al, were perennial favourites of provincial choral societies in many European countries. This continued until the outbreak of the First World War when an intensely hostile reaction against things German set in. Fortunately enterprising record companies such as Carus are doing sterling work making this rarely heard music available to a wider audience.

Over his relatively short life-span of forty-three years Max Reger wrote a substantial quantity of music which spanned many genres. Sadly his choral works and songs are not commonly performed today. However Reger enjoys an extremely high reputation among organists to whose repertoire he made significant contributions. Additionally he wrote many important works for the cello of which the Three Suites for Solo Cello, Op. 131 are particularly well regarded.

Increasingly Regerís orchestral music is becoming more numerous in the record catalogues, particularly with works such as the: Four Tone Poems after Böcklin Op. 128; Variations and Fugue on theme of Hiller Op. 100; Variations and Fugue for Orchestra on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132 and the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven (1915).

Among the choral compositions are the eight Geistliche Gesänge. These are considered to be especially moving. Composed in 1900 the Sieben geistliche, Volkslieder is for four-part mixed choir as a pure a-cappella setting. Also from 1900 the Drei Choralbearbeitungen fur Weihnachten, Neujahr, Epiphanias, Op. 79g is for three-part chorus. The folk song inspired and ambitious Zwolf deutsche geistliche Gesänge are for mixed choir for 5-8 parts. Throughout these rarely heard and attractive scores the long established NDR Chor of Hamburg under the direction of Hans-Christoph Radmann offer commendable performances which are high on expression and abundant in joy.

The Carus engineers are to be congratulated on providing a natural and well-balanced sound quality. Now the bad news! Although the booklet notes are in English, Carus have not found it necessary to include English translations of the German texts which are so essential in choral music. This marketing practice is regrettable; listeners deserve better. Furthermore the concise and reasonably informative booklet notes include a number of grammatical and spelling errors which may irritate some purchasers.

Lovers of late-Romantic choral music will find considerable rewards in these rarely heard scores. A satisfying release of attractive works well performed and decently recorded!

Michael Cookson

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