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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Fantasia über den Choral 'Ein feste Burg' Op. 27 [14:56]
Morgengesang, Op. 137 No. 2 [2:02]
Ich sehe dich in tausend Bildern Op. 105, No. 2 [2:31]
Schönster Herr Jesu [3:50]
Trauerode Funeral Ode Op 145 No 1 [12:01]
Meine Seele ist still zu Gott, Op. 105 [2:58]
Wohl denen, die ohne Wandel leben WoO VII/36 [3:13]
Gebet (Hugo Wolf arr. Reger) [2:45]
Am Abend, Op. 137 No. 4 [2:46]
Phantasie und Fuge über B-A-C-H, Op. 46 [20:01]
Susanne Langner (mezzo)
Ullrich Böhme (organ)
rec. 1988-2016, Thomaskirche, Leipzig
RONDEAU ROP6133 [67:03]

I always like to hear discs of Max Reger’s songs, so when the chance came to review this CD I jumped at it, especially as it presents some of his geistliche or sacred lieder, something you seldom find on disc. The disc itself presents seven songs with an organ work at either end and one in the middle and makes for a varied and interesting programme.

The disc opens with an organ piece, Fantasia über den Choral 'Ein feste Burg', so I will start there. This is probably the best known of the pieces presented here. The Lutheran Chorale is treated to a fully virtuosic interpretation by Reger, much more than in the hands of Bach, his musical hero. It receives here the performance it deserves. I have four other performances of the piece in my collection and whilst it is up there with the best, I do find that of Balázs Szabó (MDG 920 1945-6), with its sonic superiority and greater clarity edges it a little, but this remains a very fine recording. Sticking with the organ, the central piece is less well known, the Trauerode or Funeral Ode is the first of Reger's Seven Organ Pieces, Op. 145 and proves a good pivot on which to base this collection. This is dedicated to all those “who fell in the war of 1914/15”. It is a solemn piece with moments of more animated music which could be said to reflect the anguish of war. The piece concludes with the Chorale Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, something that Bach employs in his Cantata BWV 12. Here the performance is excellent. It certainly has more presence than my only other recording, that by Edgar Krapp on Naxos 8.557891. The disc concludes with one of Reger’s masterpieces, the Phantasie und Fuge über B-A-C-H, a monumental twenty minute work in which Reger explores his admiration for the great man. This is an organ tour de force, and one for which Ullrich Böhme proves himself more than a match - an excellent performance.

When it comes to the vocal works, I found myself wishing for more. Just take the aching beauty of the song to the Virgin Mary Ich sehe dich in tausend Bildern as an example, the juxtaposition of the voice and the organ works so well. This is continued throughout with Susanne Langner, with the boy-like quality of her mezzo proving the perfect foil for the famous Thomaskirche organ. I found Reger’s treatment of Hugo Wolff’s setting of Gebet quite intriguing. This is a song that I know in its original works very well indeed.

This disc is well conceived and beautifully performed programme of sacred music. The notes are good, as is the sound, and full texts and translations are included, making this a most valuable addition to the Reger catalogue.

Stuart Sillitoe



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