Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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MAX REGER 1873-1916 Concerto in Olden Style (1912) [19.23] Sinfonietta (1904) [50.12] Bamberg SO/Horst Stein (Peter Rosenberg, Harald Orlovsky (violins) - Concerto) co-production with Bavarian Radio  rec June 1992 Koncerto, Jan/Feb 1993 Sinfonietta: Dominikanwerbau, Bamberg KOCH-SCHWANN 3-1354-2 [70.02]




(US cover differs)

This is volume 6 in one of the most ambitious Reger projects on record. Koch-Schwann seem to receive little attention for their efforts and conversely may well suffer because their publicity seems pretty low key. Examine for example the pages of Fanfare and Gramophone. Also you will look in vain for a Koch website listing their complete catalogue. This can be contrasted with the excellent websites for Citadel, Crystal, Chesky and Reference Recordings.

Koch's Reger catalogue is large and the company is obviously trying to give it new shelf-life and selling power by rebadging it. This has extended to providing single depth colourful covers to go over the top of the original CD booklets.

One of the strengths of the project is the commitment to a single orchestra/conductor team for the orchestral works. Horst Stein made some cracking recordings for Decca in the 1970s with the Suisse Romande Orchestra. I think especially of the LPs of Sibelius's Nightride, Pohjola's Daughter, En Saga and the rather slighted Lemminkainen Legends.

Reger's reputation (rather unfairly) precedes him. The reputation tells us that the music will be academic, heavy with organ textures, and a bit boring. What is the truth? Well MY truth is that there is much here to enjoy. Some of the movements are rather longwinded but most is eloquent and even affecting. The Concerto with winsome contributions by the two violinists is a cross between Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and the big-band old-fashioned approach to playing Purcell and Handel - A sort of Goossens brand of band megalomania or Elgar's orchestration of Handel. The central movement is very touching and the Corelli-like gambollings of the two violinists are memorable.

The Sinfonietta is big, running to 50 minutes. The giant first movement is a Schubertian hike through the countryside but with splashes of Bruckner as well. Nothing very dramatic and perhaps a bit overlong but even so the composer does not put a foot wrong. The second movement sandwiches a surprisingly lovely liturgical moderato between a rather off-putting dry grand dance in two segments. The larghetto is lovely and takes us to the high alpine pastures in summer - no ascent just a quiet saunter through the lush grass. This recalled Strauss's Alpine Symphony and a little of Othmar Schoeck's Summernight. The final allegro con spirito is just that but not desperately interesting.

Horst Stein is now with the Bamberg SO and has been reliably applying inspiration and eloquence to the Reger project. Any critical comments are I am sure down to the music rather than these faithful and dedicated performances. I would like to hear more and especially the violin concerto which I remember trying some 15 years ago and not returning to. Time to try again. I also hope to review the CPO recording of the Pfitzner violin concerto.

This is a generously filled disc, well recorded (spotless wide-range FM quality) and well annotated by Ekkehart Kroher (German, English, French - 3pp each language).

A good solid disc.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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