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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 133a (1914) [38:50]
String Trio in D minor, Op. 141bb (1904) [20:55].
Aperto Piano Quartet (Gernot Süssmuth (violin); aFelix Schwartz (viola); bStefan Fehlandt (viola); Hans-Jakob Eschenburg (cello); Frank-Immo Zichner (piano))
rec. Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, 16-18 September  2002 (Op. 133),  Siemensvilla, Berlin-Lankwitz, Germany, 27-28 February 2007.
NAXOS 8.570786 [59:52] 
Experience Classicsonline


The more Reger, the better. Not often you hear that, but the more Reger I hear, the more I want. And
Naxos is just the company to provide the goods.

The A minor Piano Quartet is a remarkably tender work. The expansive first movement includes some fraught passages, it is true, but the lasting impression is one of melancholy, densely expressed music. The string writing is active and, in this performance, highly expressive. There is little let-up from the overarching intensity. The piece finds excellent interpreters in the Aperto Piano Quartet. Frank-Immo Zichner is a superb pianist. His name was not known to me prior to hearing the present performance. 

The Scherzo, marked “Vivace” is mischievous in the extreme, contrasting with the ghostly Largo con gran espressione which, around the two minute mark, threatens to disappear, textures get so thin and emaciated. Anguished string recitatives project the “gran espressione” part of the movement’s tempo/mood indicator. The Aperto Piano Quartet projects the emotions well, just as it captures the staccato play of the finale: “Allegro con spirito”. There is much that is post-Brahmsian here in the more angst-ridden moments, although Reger does not let in the light as Brahms might occasionally have done. 

The D minor String Trio dates from 1904. It exhales altogether fresher air than its companion here, although the first movement does threaten to move towards the dense at one point. The central “Andante  molto sostenuto con variazioni” is a delight – one can justifiably sit back and revel in Reger’s easy invention. After two movements each just under nine minutes duration, the finale is a mere 3:19. It is probably the closest Reger gets to sunny. 

Personally, I would rather have this String Trio as the coupling to Op. 133 than a sequence of Violin Duos: the Three Duos, Op. 131b, to be precise, a collection of canons or fugues, as is the case over on Dabringhaus und Grimm, MDG 336 0714-2. 

The notes, by Susanne Popp, are confusing. She spends a whole page and a half discussing another piano quartet by Reger (the D minor, Op. 113) before finally lighting on the A minor, Op. 133. Then she discusses the String Trio in A minor, Op. 77b in some detail before giving a final nod in the direction of the piece we actually hear, the D minor, Op. 141b. I thought at first Naxos had inserted the wrong notes, but the catalogue numbers of the recordings of the (other) pieces she discusses are given in brackets. Has Naxos used all-purpose notes for two releases? I have not seen Volume 1 of this series of “Complete String Trios and Piano Quartets”, of which the present issue is Volume 2. Whether this is the case or not, the notes do not make for comfortable reading. According to Popp, Reger said of the String Trio Op. 131b “the work is really good” - meaningful and insightful, not. She then calls it “genuine Reger” - actually her quotation marks, and I have no idea why she used them. She certainly does not define her term or justify her appellation of the Trio as the real Regerian deal. 

There is a bonus, however, or perhaps a reward for surviving the booklet notes, a download - which I did indeed download. It is the delightful finale to Reinecke’s Sextet, Op. 271 for wind, from Naxos 8.570777 and played, so my iTunes tells me, by members of the Boston Symphony. Also featured on the disc is the intriguingly titled Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, Op. 202, arranged for flute and piano by Ernesto Kohler. The performance of the Sextet finale is splendid. I hope the booklet notes are better for that release, though.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Kevin Sutton


 


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