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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Organ Works - Volume 6

Chorale Fantasia on ‘Alle Menschen müssen sterben’, Op. 52, No. 1 (1900) [17:13]
Six Trios, Op. 47 (1900) [17:43]
Introduction, Variations and Fugue in F sharp minor on an Original Theme, Op. 73 (1903) [37:13]
Marin Welzel (organ)
Rec. Klais Organ, Trier Cathedral, Germany, July 8-9th 2003.
NAXOS 8.557338 [72:10]
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Completist collectors have their expensive desires met at budget cost by such series as the Naxos ‘Organ Encyclopedia’.

The Reger collection has generally been well received so far, and those who have already collected the first five volumes will want number 6 as a matter of course, especially as volume 4 was recorded on the same instrument.

The 1974 Johannes Klais Organ looks a little like a rocket taking off on the cover of the booklet; in full flow it sounds a little like one as well. With a reverb of something like 13 or more seconds in Trier Cathedral the sonic build-up is quite spectacular at times, and anyone wanting to show how they can get even their Ted Moult double-glazing to rattle with their new panel-hybrid loudspeakers will find this to be quite a demonstration disc. The engineers have done a good job finding a balance however, and, while absolute clarity is virtually impossible in such a space, the quieter moments prove there to be a great deal of subtle colour and variety in the instrument.

All of these works are representative of the mature Reger, and the Chorale Fantasia has all the typically romantic dense chromatic figuration one might expect: heaving, turgid, full-on cathedral organ with wild dynamic contrasts down to ‘ppp’ variations on the chorale theme. The Six Trios are very much the soft centre to the programme on this CD. Gently contrasting, a slowly unfolding opening Canon is followed by a tripping Gigue, which is further framed by an elegantly melodic Canzonetta. A lively Scherzo is followed by a rustic, flowing Siciliano, and the set is concluded with a Fugue finale. Without the any of the intention or ambitions of such works, I nonetheless can’t help thinking of this collection as a kind of Organ Symphony in miniature.

The ‘organ sandwich’ is concluded with a nearly 40-minute doorstop - the mighty Introduction, Variations and Fugue, which was written in 1903 and dedicated to Reger’s friend Karl Straube, a noted performer of Reger’s music, and the player for whom many of Reger’s works seem designed to stretch. The Johannes Klais organ proves itself once again ideally suited to this repertoire, with Martin Welzel ably demonstrating the huge dynamic range and expressive potential of this instrument. Using Reger’s musical exploration as a medium for such an exercise I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of the music on this disc. I admit to being more of a French organ listener and less of a fan of the sequential, chromatic build-ups which Reger often employs, but this recording will sit well next to my Widors, Francks and Viernes, and is unreservedly recommended.

Dominy Clements



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