Max REGER (1873-1916)
Violin Concerto in A major, Op.101 (1908) arr. 1922 for Violin and chamber ensemble by Rudolf Kolisch (1896-1978) [57:25]
Winfried Rademacher (violin)
rec. Deutschlandfunk Cologne, Chamber Music Hall, December 2010
CAPRICCIO C5137 [57:25]
Over the last few years some intrepid labels have turned their attention to the Association for Private Musical Performances, established in Vienna by Schoenberg at the end of the First World War. With sole responsibility for programme planning Schoenberg brought contemporary music to audiences in a particularly valuable way. As the programmes were never publicised in advance – to stop people picking and choosing which concerts to attend based on personal taste – unfamiliarity was the name of the game. This was especially so given the number of arrangements of large-scale works presented in the series. Mahler is the obvious example but Schoenberg also had great reverence for the music of Reger, whom he once unhesitatingly described as a genius.
The symphonic vastness of the Violin Concerto, which had been premiered to mixed reviews by Henri Marteau in October 1908, provided fertile ground. The work was a decade old and ripe for arrangement for the Schoenberg Circle. The responsibility for arrangement fell to the young Rudolf Kolisch (1896-1978), a pupil of Franz Schreker and one of Schoenberg’s private students. Their relationship was later bolstered when Kolisch’s sister Gertrud married Schoenberg after the death of Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde. Kolisch was later to establish quite a reputation as a proponent of contemporary music in particular, and surviving recordings demonstrate his aesthetic grasp of the new music, as do those of the string quartet which bore his name and the Wisconsin version of the Pro Arte quartet, of which he was leader (see review).
The small ensemble charged with conveying the vast orchestral tapestry is flute, clarinet, horn, piano, harmonium, string quartet and double bass. Kolisch made some amendments to the solo line, which is unremittingly, though in no way impossibly, demanding in performance. The effect is inevitably to domesticate this mammoth of a Concerto, but it was being done for a specific purpose and neither Kolisch nor Schoenberg could have imagined that the arrangement they established would lead to recordings a century or so later. Indeed, you’d have to be a rather militant Regerian to want to hear it, fine though it is to hear the music clarified in this way.
Winfried Rademacher, a student of Josef Suk, plays with tonal sweetness and technical security. He plays the lyric sections in particular with distinction, and marshals that fearsome first movement cadenza with sang froid. The almost religioso element of the opening of the Largo comes over with a particularly intimate refinement in this chamber arrangement, the Linos Ensemble’s thoughtful sonority providing a deft tapestry. Dynamics are always plausible and never disrupt the balance between the solo violin and the ensemble. Rademacher is also fully up to tempo throughout – tempi are comparable to the full-scale original. For a very different view, where tempi are altogether faster – sometimes startlingly so - you’d need to turn to Elena Denisova, whose 47 minute drive-through on Preiser Records with Alexei Kornienko directing Collegium Musicum Corinthia is quite tricky to find.