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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Organ Works Vol. 9
Variations and Fugue on “Heil, unserm König Heil” (“God Save the Queen”) (1900?) [8:01]
Twelve Pieces, op.65, 1-6 (1902) [31:36]
Six Chorale Preludes (1893-1909) [15:33]
Chorale Fantasia on “Straf mich nicht in dinem Zorn”, op.40 no.2 (1899) [13:52]
Josef Still (organ)
rec. Johannes Klais Organ, Trier Cathedral, June 2008. DDD 
NAXOS 8.570454 [69:17] 
Experience Classicsonline


Max Reger’s organ works are emblematic for the composer, not only or always in a good way. Reger is perceived as an organist-composer, and organ music builds the bridge from the catholic romantic composer Reger to Johann Sebastian Bach, with whom Reger is so often associated and whose music Reger made piano transcriptions of or based his compositions on. But his organ music, of which he composed unseemly amounts, also has the reputation for being dry, at least to ears that don’t belong firmly to organ music aficionados. A little bit can go a long way. Although I like Reger more often than not, I admit that I’ve listened to Rosalinde Haas’s 12 CD set of Reger’s complete organ works (MDG, not counting the transcriptions) only a select few times. The arrival of volume nine of
Naxos’ traversal of the Reger organ works (I’ve missed or ignored the preceding volumes) has provided the right excuse to dust Haas’ set off again. 

Naxos’ recordings are divided among different organists (with organist Wolfgang Rübsam as producer), which is a fine idea (also used for their Scarlatti-on-piano cycle) that allows each performer to focus sufficiently on the select works they are to record. Josef Still performs on the Johannes Klais Organ of the cathedral of Trier where he is the organist. The first six of the dozen op.65 Pieces, six Choral Preludes, the Chorale Fantasia “Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn” op.40/2, and the “God Save the Queen” Variations and Fugue are included on his recital. In brief: Haas is faster, Still indulges. Haas chooses a brighter registration, Still a more colorful one. Reverb with Haas’ Frankfurt organ is minimal, Still’s, considerable. The 2008 recording of Naxos is very fine and competitive (though not better) with MDG’s 20 year old sound. 

Perhaps because I am not completely engaging myself with the music, I find the fleeter, more virtuosic performances of Mme. Haas slightly more to my liking (more exciting) than the richer, more nuanced and varied Still performances. Then again, in this particular repertoire they don’t compete, because it takes five of Haas’ discs to cobble together Still’s recital. For those who wish to have just a little Reger on organ, the varied mix of pieces on Still’s disc is particularly attractive; not the least for including the attractive “God Save the Queen” Variations and Fugue. The Haas discs - vol.8 contains “God Save the Queen” - are currently difficult to get, leaving Naxos without competition for the time being although MDG will surely re-release their set once they’ve worked their way through all of Reger’s œvre, which they seem intent on doing. If Naxos’s other performers perform at Josef Still’s level, Haas may yet get competition in this field, though.

Jens F Laurson



 
 


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