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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Intégrale de l’œuvre pour Orgue - Volume 5
Jean-Baptiste Dupont (organ)
rec. 2017/18, Steinmeyer organ of Marienkirche, Landau; Jehmlich Organ, Church of Pössneck;
Link Organ, Church of Saint Paul, Ulm, Germany
HORTUS 163/4 [66:34 + 69:34]

Whilst I have known about this series, it has as yet eluded me, mainly due to having missed the first couple of discs when they came out and then only being available as downloads, and I do prefer to have the physical article in my hand rather than on a hard disc. Jean-Baptiste Dupont has set out to record the complete organ music of Max Reger on German organs, which are greatly different to the sound world of his home organs in the cathedral Saint-André de Bordeaux, and Cavaillé-Coll organ of Saint-Sernin of Toulouse, which for such a youngish organist is no mean feat, especially when you consider that Naxos spread the complete survey of the organ music between ten organists. I have a lot of Reger’s wonderful music on disc, in fact, I have at least one alternative version to each of the works presented here.

The major works on this two-disc set are the two sonatas which were composed just three years apart in 1898 and 1901 respectfully in what was a golden period for Reger. I have always found it strange that here in Reger we have someone who has been described as the greatest composer since Johann Sebastian Bach, yet he only composed the two sonatas. As it is, I have a couple of versions of both these fascinating works, those by Christian Barthan and Stefan Frank for Naxos (8.572906 and 8.557186), and my personal favourite recording by Gerhard Weinberger on CPO (777 717-2). With quite a few of his organ works, Reger employs a wide dynamic range, this can be heard in the opening Phantasie of the Sonata No. 1, where the music goes from the very loud to the very quiet and then back again, and in the Invocation of the Sonata No.2 which starts very quietly and gradually builds up in intensity and volume. Here Dupont deals with this range a lot better that Barthan or Frank on Naxos, however the SACD surround sound of Weinberger’s recording on the CPO, accentuates this even more, it is clearer and brighter and so bringing out the full range of the music.

Whilst the 52 chorale preludes are have been split between volumes, Heft or Book 1 was on the previous volume, Heft 3 here, with Heft 2 is to be released on a future volume, they are dealt with better than on the Naxos set, where is some cases a player, for example Martin Welzel on Volume 10 (8.570960) of their complete organ music, only gets to play four of them. This has led to some unevenness at times, with some of the organists giving better performances than others. There is no such problem here as the seventeen choral preludes included on this disc show what a versatile performer Jean-Baptiste Dupont is. We get the well-known such as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme and the not so well-known, like the two versions of Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, or the wonderful Jesus ist kommen. All of which show that Dupont has a real mastery of both the instrument and the music, much more so than any of the performers for the Naxos set, mainly because they sound a little disjointed.

The final pieces in this set are the Five Easy Preludes and Fugues Op.56, and as with the Op.67, they don’t sound that ‘easy’, rather they sound, with their dynamic shifts and changes of pace within the individual pieces, quite difficult. I do have a strange recording of the Fugue from Präludium und fuge G-dur No.3 played by Max Reger himself taken from a organ roll, a bit like a piano roll but it allows for stops and peddle depressions also. It features on a recording from Ohms’ series The Britannic Organ Vol.8 (OC 847) and is strangely wonderful to have a disembodied organist playing the work. At least here Naxos place them on a single disc, Volume 14 (8.572907), even then Josef Still separates Heft 1 from Heft 2 with the first 15 of the Op.67 chorale preludes. Dupont’s performance is a little slower that Still’s which gives the works a little more gravitas and grandeur, with Reger’s playing being even slower.

This is a very well performed volume of the complete organ works of Reger, Dupont gives us performances with well-judged tempos and good control over the dynamic range, only bettered by Weinberger due to the better sound generated by CPOs SACD surround sound recording. That aside, this is a performance that is certainly up there with the best, and one which will make me search out other recordings in the series. With this release Dupont has reached disc 8, so roughly half way through the complete works, and if the quality of playing remains close to this, it will be, when completed a set to compete with the Weinberger and the Martin Schmeding for Cybele Records, of which I have only heard a few discs, but his is certainly, from what I have heard, a version of distinction.

The recorded sound is very good, it might lack a little compared to that of the CPO and Cybele recordings, both of which are SACD, but as a standard CD of organ music the sound is excellent and well-focussed. Add to this the excellent booklet notes by Dupont himself and Jürgen Schaarwächter of the Max-Reger-Institute and you have a very worthwhile release indeed.

Stuart Sillitoe

Disc 1
Erste Sonate, fis-moll (Sonata No.1 in F sharp minor) Op.33
1 Phantasie [5:33]
2 Intermezzo [6:04]
3 Passacaglia [12:57]
Zweiundfünfzig leicht ausführbare Vorspiele für die Orgel, Op.67, Heft 3 (nos 36 à 52)
(52 chorale preludes, Book 3 Nos. 36 – 52)
4 Sollt ich meinem Gott nicht singen [2:46]
5 Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn [2:14]
6 Valet will ich dir geben [2:44]
7 Vater unser im Himmelreich [3:55]
8 Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her [2:51]
9 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme [3:34]
10 Von Gott will ich nicht lassen [2:49]
11 Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen [2:27]
12 Was Gott thut, das ist wohlgetan [2:04]
13 Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten No. 45 [2:17]
14 Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten No. 46 [1:14]
15 Werde munter, mein Gemüte [1:50]
16 Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende [2:49]
17 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [2:57]
18 Wie wohl ist mir, o Freund der Seelen [2:37]
19 Jesus ist kommen [1:16]
20 O wie selig. [1:36]
Disc 2
Zweite Sonate d-moll (Sonata No.2 in D minor) Op.60
1 Improvisation [10:10]
2 Invocation [7:22]
3 Introduction und Fuge. [8:01]
Fünf leicht ausführbare Präludien und Fugen, Op.56
(Five Easy Preludes and Fugues for Organ)
Heft 1
No. 1 Präludium und fuge E-dur
4 Andante [4:58]
5 Allegretto [3:21]
No. 2 Präludium und fuge d-moll
6 Vivace [3:51]
7 Allegrissimo [3:03]
Heft 2
No. 3 Präludium und fuge G-dur
8 Andante [5:41]
9 Con moto [5:36]
No. 4 Präludium und fuge C-dur
10 Allegro [3:39]
11 Vivace [2:42]
No. 5 Präludium und fuge h-moll
12 Quasi adagio [6:15]
13 Moderato [4:55]



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