Max REGER (1873 – 1916)
Guitar Transcriptions
Prelude and Fugue in E Minor for Solo Violin, op. 117/3 [6:35]
Sonata in D Minor for Solo Violin, op. 42/1 [14:59]
Prelude and Fugue in G Major for Solo Violin, op. 131a/3 [5:47]
Suite No. 3 in A Minor for Solo Cello, op. 131c/3 [21:28]
Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Cello, op. 131c/1 [11:07]
Laura Young (guitar)
rec. 4-6 August 2013, Sint Lambertuskerk, Vessem, The Netherlands
GRAMOLA 99072 [59:56]

In this beautiful album, Laura Young brings a transparent fluidity and grace to this music by Max Reger. These works were originally for solo violin or cello but are here performed in her superb adaptations for the solo guitar. I know full well that words like “transparent”, “fluidity”, and “grace” might not be the first that come to mind when thinking of Reger’s music, but I assure you that what Ms Young has wrought here is reflected in those words. I have a great appreciation for this composer’s music, but I must admit that this is the most delightful disc of Reger to come my way in a long time.

Ms Young’s own comments reproduced in the liner-notes state her case very well: “I selected those works that could be performed faithfully on my instrument, works whose essential character would remain untouched by my transcriptions, but that also offered opportunities for new interpretive dimensions and horizons ....The process of interpreting these beautiful pieces on the guitar was surprisingly natural. Moreover, it could be said that the music is enhanced by the enormous range of colour and timbre offered by the instrument. It is my hope that this recording proposes an innovating playing style, which may inspire future performers and composers, and widens the appreciation of Reger’s wonderful music.”

Ms Young has selected well from Reger’s large corpus of solo string music, with the largest work the Suite No. 3 in A Minor for Solo Cello, op. 131c lasting a little over twenty minutes and consisting of a Prelude, Scherzo and Andante with five variations. After a slow Prelude very much “in the manner of Bach”, but with much typical Reger chromaticism, the Scherzo follows in a-b-a form. This is something of a tour de force with the guitar bringing an almost Flamenco flavour to the two “a” sections, separated by a hauntingly languid “b” section. Throughout his career Reger favoured the Theme with Variations form – one thinks of his orchestral Mozart and Hiller Variations, or the piano Bach Variations. This Cello Suite likewise concludes with a theme and five variations, which are short, pithy and excellent display pieces for the guitar.

Other highlights include the Adagio movement of Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello, a gorgeous song filled with wandering chromatic soulfulness. The Allegro energico opening of the Sonata in D Minor for Solo Violin is fiendishly difficult and very Spanish-sounding with its cascading arpeggios – a highlight of this disc. The remarkable Fugue from the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor for Solo Violin has its counterpoint rendered with crystal clear transparency in the guitar transcription.

There is not a dull moment on this disc, and I congratulate Ms Young for applying her considerable technique to this otherwise difficult and obscure music. What she does with Reger deserves the highest praise, and I hope this album brings this remarkable composer to a wider, appreciative audience. Technically, the Gramola recording is exemplary, with close microphone placement giving a focused soundstage for the solo guitar in an otherwise reverberant church acoustic.
John Proffitt
Member, Board of Directors, the Bruckner Society of America
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