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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Organ Works Volume 5: Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 60 (1901) [23’40]. Organ Pieces, Op. 65, Nos. 7-12 (1902) [34’33] – No. 7, Prelude in D minor [6’25]; No. 8, Fugue in D [4’13]; No. 9, Canzona in E flat [6’31]; No. 10, Scherzo in D minor [3’13]; Toccata in E minor [4’37]; Fugue in E [7’43]. Chorale Fantasia on ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, Op. 52 No. 2 (1900) [19’39]
Stefan Frank (organ).
Rec. on the Great Organ of Fulda Cathedral (Rieger-Sauer) in October 2002. DDD

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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.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Brent Johnson



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