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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Orchestral Songs
Stefanie Iranyi (mezzo), Rainer Trost (tenor), Paul Armin Edelmann (baritone)
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Gregor Bühl
rec. 21-23 March 2016, Philharmonie, Ludwigshafen
CAPRICCIO C5275 [65:46]

For some reason I do not feel comfortable with songs with piano accompaniment. However, I love orchestral songs and partly compensate for my resistance to piano songs by listening to orchestral versions of them. So when this disc turned up I jumped at it. Furthermore, I am always glad to have an opportunity to hear Reger. He seems to be one of those composers who do not travel – at least I never see his works being performed live in the UK – so recordings are particularly welcome in this, the centenary year of his death.

We begin with five songs Reger chose from his own works to orchestrate as a set. The idiom here varies from the Wagner of The Flying Dutchman to early Schoenberg. The poems emphasize night, sleep and dream. The singers alternate between the vigorous baritone of Paul Edelmann and the mezzo Stefanie Iranyi, who begins rather tremulously but soon recovers security and tone. Another single Reger song follows.

The two Grieg songs are strange in that, while the orchestral versions appear idiomatic and natural, there is nothing in the least Scandinavian about them. Since they are, like the rest of the programme, sung in German, they might as well be German.

With the six songs by Brahms we find a more natural choice for Reger to arrange. His orchestral idiom is richer than that of Brahms and we have the feeling of walking over a thick pile carpet. The effect, if not quite in the idiom, is nevertheless lovely.

Hugo Wolf strongly approved of arranging his songs for orchestra and indeed made a number of arrangements himself. Reger obviously avoided these and here we have four where the orchestrations come across as wholly natural.

Finally we come to Schubert. Reger here took care to not adopt an inappropriately heavy style and there is a good deal more delicacy and transparency. These are all settings of Goethe, and include the three harpist’s songs from "Wilhelm Meister". It is also interesting to hear Schubert’s version of Prometheus if one already knows the one by Wolf, which is much more Wagnerian in its orchestral guise. In The Erlking Reger stands in strong contrast to Berlioz, who pulled out all the stops in his version. Reger is far more restrained, careful not to overshadow the voice but losing no urgency as the Erlking, otherwise the marsh fever, takes hold of the child.

This disc has been most carefully planned. I have mentioned two of the singers. The third is the tenor Rainer Trost. They make a good team, with steady voices, understanding of the texts and a good balance with the orchestra. This is the very competent Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz and Gregor Bühl directs proceedings with conviction. The recording, in a concert-hall acoustic, is clear and natural. The booklet has essays in both German and English but the song texts in German only.

I am not aware of any other current recordings of Reger’s original orchestral songs although there was a collection on Koch-Schwann in the late 1990s. Some of his Schubert arrangements are included in the collection of orchestrated Schubert songs which Abbado made with Anne Sofie von Otter and Thomas Quasthoff (review). Wolf liked to orchestrate his own songs and a fine collection of them comes from Kent Nagano with Juliane Banse and Dietrich Henschel (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901837) with another from Fischer-Dieskau on Orfeo. The present disc is not going to have a competitor very soon, so if you can put up with the absence of translations of the song texts – they can be found on line if you persist – you will find this very rewarding.

Stephen Barber

Detailed track-listing
Five Orchestral Songs (1898/1901 arr. 1915)
Flieder Op. 35/4 [2:28]
Wiegenlied Op. 43/5 [2:11]
Glückes genug Op. 37/3 [1:44]
Fromm Op. 61/11 [2:08]
Mein Traum Op. 31/5 [3:45]
from Four Lieder Op. 97 (1906 arr. 1913)
Das Dorf Op. 97/1 [1:57]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) arr. REGER
Two Songs for voice and orchestra (1914)
Ich liebe dich Op. 5/3 [2:12]
Eros Op. 70/1 [2:58]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) arr REGER
Six Songs for voice and orchestra (1914/5)
Sapphische Ode Op. 94/4 [2:13]
Wir wandelten, wir Zwei Op. 96/2 [3:01]
Auf dem Kirchhofe Op. 105/4 [2:30]
In Waldeseinsamkeit Op. 85/6 [2:22]
Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer Op. 105/2 [3:43]
Feldeinsamkeit Op. 86/2 [3:16]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) arr REGER
Four Songs for voice and orchestra (1914)
Der Freund HWW 118/1 [1:50]
Das Ständchen HWW 118/4 [2:25]
Und willst du deinen Liebstein sterben sehen HWW 159/17 [2:11]
Sterb’ ich, so hullt in Blumen meine Glieder HWW 159/33 [2:21]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) arr REGER
Six Goethe Songs for voice and orchestra (1914)
An den Mond D 296 [4:11]
Gesänge des Harfners
Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt D 478/1 [3:36]
Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß D 478/2 [4:28]
An die Türen will ich schleichen D 478/3 [2:35]
Prometheus D 674 [5:05]
Erlkönig D 328 [4:06]



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