An imposing recording of Reger organ music
from Stefan Frank (one half of the organ duo - ! – ‘Four Feet’).
These works were written between 1900 and 1902; the Second Sonata
represents the most concentrated work here. In three movements
(Improvisation; Invocation; Introduction and Fugue), Frank plays
this music with the huge confidence it requires. The recording
is exemplary, and needs to be as Reger plays with huge aggregations
of sound as part of his armoury – try around 3’39 in the first
movement to experience the sheer thrill of a massive sound.
The Producer is one Wolfgang Rübsam, which perhaps explains
the high production values. He is himself an organist and has
produced and engineered himself – if you see what I mean – on
Naxos, for example
Rheinberger organ music on 8.554212.
The Second Sonata is dedicated to Martin Krause.
The impressive opening ‘Improvisation’ - 9’05 in duration, keeping
the attention well - leads to an ‘Invocation’. The harmonic
palette is fascinating here, full of Regerisch ambiguities.
The varied concluding Fugue is interesting, including more subdued
thematic play at around 1’40.
The Op. 65 Pieces here (the back-end of a set
of twelve) begin with an extended Prelude (6’25) that rises
to a glorious close and even has moments of fun in it. The Scherzo
in D minor also contains some playful staccato moments. A confident
compositional hand clearly brought the Fugue in D into existence,
while the Toccata in E minor is interesting in that it is not
massively agile, rather becoming increasingly complex as it
proceeds. Finally a very restrained Fugue in E opens out slowly
over its 7’43 duration.
The Chorale Fantasia on ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns
die Stimme’, at some twenty minutes, is no frivolous piece.
The opening is very slow indeed - some might say turgid - making
no overt reference to the Chorale melody the work is based upon,
This is an intense Fantasia, making the Fugue when it eventually
appears act as something of a tonic. The climax of this fugue
is mightily impressive.
Max Reger’s music is fully deserving of investigation.
A reputation for dullness and turgidity, whilst sometimes justified,
by no means represents the whole story, and we should be grateful
to Naxos for an opportunity
to give Reger a fair hearing.
see also Review
by Brent Johnson