Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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MAX REGER (1873-1916) Piano Concerto in F minor (1910) Gerhard Oppitz (piano) Bamberg SO/Horst Stein recorded Bamberg 1988 Koch Schwann - Musica Mundi 311058 H1 [36:46]




Reger's rather dull reputation precedes and undermines him! All organ works (I am in general allergic to the instrument) and fugues? Academic and lifeless?

Well there certainly seem to be acres of organ works (enough to fill ten or more volumes in MD&G's series - someone else care to tackle that assignment) but the rest of his very extensive heritage is worth assessment and on the evidence of my ears there are some uniquely valuable and enjoyable works amongst the orchestral (and I suspect chamber as well) works. I say this on the evidence of the often cheery orchestral variations and the Böcklin Pictures.

The piano concerto is not new to disc. I first heard it in the 1970s on a CBS LP where the soloist was Peter Serkin and Ormandy may well have been the conductor. My memories of it were very hazy. At that time I was first exploring classical music and tended to move rapidly away from anything that did not have something to capture the imagination. Now I was returning to the work after a gap of about 25 years.

The concerto rises from a drabbly misty bed provided by strings. There are no instantly commanding heroics. Instead we are treated to hyper-romantic doom and gloom à la Manfred. However the atmosphere is pregnant with potential. That potential is exploited as the piano enters in tumult with bravura stormy playing which hardly relents at all throughout the movement. In fact so dominant is the strenuous atmosphere of dashing conflict and heroism that even the second movement (largo con gran espressione) opens in piano-driven turmoil. This does evaporate and after the storm the sound raindrops falling from the forest ceiling after the thunderstorm provides a pellucid accompaniment (track 2 10.54) to the general air of dreaminess. The finale (allegretto con spirito) IS spirited and there is a touch of Elgarian passion at start of the movement (viz 1:50) and some delightful work for the woodwind.

Not perhaps my most favourite piano concerto but certainly a fine sturdy work of concentrated late romanticism. This is clearly a concerto that will yield rewards with repeated listenings even though first impressions suggest a concerto with little in the way of easy glamour.

Trilingual (German/English/French) notes by Ekkehart Kroher are long on detail; short on hot air.

The performance seems adept and committed both as to soloist and orchestra. The technical dimension is well handled sounding like a very decent FM signal: natural and strong without being spotlit. Short playing time mitigated by rarish repertoire.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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