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Max REGER (1873-1916)
String Trio No. 2 in D minor, Op. 141b (1915) [22:28]
String Trio No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77b (1904) [23:48]
Piano Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 133 (1914) [37:01]
Trio Lirico (Franziska Pietsch (violin), Sophia Reuter (viola), Johannes Krebs (cello))
Detlev Eisinger (piano)
rec. 2017, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem
AUDITE 97.714  [83:31]

I can understand why many find Reger's music unforgiving and daunting. It took me a while to crack the hard shell of the nut. Once I did, after much perseverance, I discovered the wealth of treasures that lie within. I am pleased to say that the music featured on this disc is some of the least forbidding in his output. A large part of Reger's compositional oeuvre consists of chamber music, and these two String Trios and Piano Quartet are certainly more approachable than the String Quartets.

“It is absolutely clear to me that what our present age lacks is a Mozart” declared Reger in June 1904. The result was the String Trio No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77b. It was premiered in November of that same year to great critical acclaim. It sounds quite extrovert at times, almost certainly in an attempt to capture some of that Mozartian lightness. After a solemn introduction, the opening movement suddenly springs to life, the energetic thrust alternates with contrasting lyrical warmth. A tender Larghetto follows, reflective in disposition. The good-humoured Scherzo sounds quite neoclassical in style. Quoting a theme from Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio, the finale cannot fail to raise a smile.

I, personally, find the String Trio in D minor, Op. 141b the more attractive of the two; maybe this is the reason why it is positioned first on the CD. A late work, it was completed in 1915, a year before Reger’s untimely death. It is a reworking of a Flute Serenade, Op. 141a, and is structured in three movements. Despite the glow of the opening movement, there is a pervading sadness and sense of longing. This is followed by a theme and variations, elegant and skilfully etched. The Vivace, which ends the work, is sun-soaked, with a playful abandon. The Trio proved popular with public and critics alike after the first performance, and it is hardly surprising.

The Trio Lirico join forces with pianist Detlev Eisinger for an impassioned reading of the Piano Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 133. The work was begun in 1914 and premiered at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in February 1915. It was published a year later. At the time, the critics praised its “glorious sororities” and its “vocal, vivid and catchy” melodies. For me, there are powerful echoes of Brahms in the music. Reger's often dense, syrupy textures and virtuosic piano writing are a notable feature of the intensely passionate opening movement. A frolicsome Vivace follows, offering some light relief. A noble, ardently-etched Largo precedes a spirited finale.

The Trio Lirico was formed in 2014, and this is their debut CD. Recorded last year, it marks the centenary of the composer's death on 1916. These are stunning performances, with precision ensemble. The Trio are utterly committed to the music and their interpretations are thoroughly convincing. Detlev Eisinger I would equally praise for the passion, energy and refinement he brings to the Piano Quartet. Audite's plush sound is another asset. For the uninitiated, especially, this constitutes a highly recommended Reger chamber music primer.

Stephen Greenbank



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