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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Vier Sonaten für Violine allein Op.42
Sonata No. 1 in D minor [16:32]
Sonata No. 2 in A major [8:14]
Sonata No. 3 in B minor [9:12]
Sonata No. 4 in G minor [15:04]
Renate Eggebrecht (violin)
rec. 2000, Bauer Studio Ludwigsburg, Germany
TROUBADISC TRO-CD01422 [54:03]

Despite Max Reger’s reputation as the twentieth century Bach due to his body of work for the organ, I think that listening to these four Sonatas for Solo Violin that the same argument can be made here. Strongly contrapuntal and with more than a leaning towards his great hero, these works show Reger as a master of writing for the instrument, despite him not really having an affinity for the instrument in his career he composed some wonderful works for violin and piano, with these Sonatas being equally convincing.

There is a clear nod to the past in each of these four works with each offering something for the listener to enjoy. It is a long time since I listened to these pieces, I use to have a copy of the Sonatas in the Da Camera Magma series of the complete chamber music of Max Reger, but that disappeared a long time ago, I must stop lending discs out, so I am more than happy to welcome this recording into my collection. From what I can remember of the Da Camera disc it was blessed with spirited playing, but the 1960’s recorded sound was somewhat limiting. Not so here, with both the performance and recorded sound being excellent.

The four Sonatas contrast and complement each other well, in proportion as well as dynamics, with Nos. 1 and 3 being cast in four movements, whilst Nos. 2 and 4 are in three, whilst the violinist is called upon to use the full range of their instrument, something that Renate Eggebrecht does with ease. The Second Sonata is the odd one out as it is the only one in a major key, and it is for me, my least favourite. The minor key Sonatas have a deeper emotional integrity, as can be seen in the First, which has a wonderful slow movement, with a lilting opening theme that gives way to a more animated central section before returning to the original melody; quite lovely. Whilst the Fourth Sonata, is marked out by the concluding Chaconne, the longest single movement of all four of the sonatas. This movement was originally premiered as a standalone movement and is perhaps the highlight of the four, with its eighteen variations forming an excellent conclusion to the cycle, Reger must have thought so too, as he repeated the idea of a concluding chaconne in his later cycle of Op.91 Sonatas.

Renate Eggebrecht is called upon to run up the scales to some stratospheric heights before plummeting back to a more usual register in these Sonatas, something she does with ease. From what I can remember of my previous disc of these Sonatas, the performance was good, but nothing too exciting, whereas with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle, she is never out of her depth and offers a characterful and secure performance that leaves the listener gasping for breath. She is helped by a sympathetic acoustic and wonderful recorded sound, whilst the booklet notes by Jürgen Schaarwächer of the Max Reger Institute Karlsruhe are excellent. A very fine release, one which all fans of Reger’s music will not want to be without. It should be noted that this was originally released in the year of its recording, and then reissued in 2012.

Stuart Sillitoe

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