Continuing our occasional series, 'If only they had written for films' - Max
Reger's music would have been any movie producer's dream, for it was atmospheric
and vividly pictorial. Alas he died in 1916 some twenty years before Hollywood's
This compilation is aptly titled 'Reger and Romanticism' for it is very much
in the Late Romantic tradition, beautifully drawn, atmospheric and evocative
programme music based on the influences of the Böcklin paintings and Hölderlin
and Von Eichendorff verses. Reger died relatively young but by the time of his
death he was widely regarded, along with Richard Strauss, as a leading light
in the succession of great German Classical and Romantic composers.
The booklet includes reproductions (rather poor ones it has to be said, particularly
of 'The Isle of the Dead') of the four Arnold Böcklin paintings. [Böcklin's
highly romantic pictures were very much in vogue with prints hung in homes across
Europe in this period]. As it happens the picture of 'The Isle of the Dead'
decorates many recordings of the much better known Rachmaninov tone poem so
the loss of detail is not so crucial. It is interesting to compare the two composer's
different approaches to the same subject. Reger takes a more mournful stance
and is less preoccupied with a literal translation of muffled oars slipping
through misty waters than conveying the painting's dark, brooding atmosphere.
Much less time is concerned with the character of the deceased although there
is no denying the power of the brief climax that seems to intimate that, in
life, this was a heroic and romantic figure. The opening movement is a portrait
of the 'Hermit Playing the Violin' with violin soloist, Michael Davis, in sweet
piety with Botstein offering an affecting accompaniment. 'In the Play of the
Waves' is a sparkling scherzo playfully evoking spirits and mermaids cavorting
through the waves. The final picture showing a classical Bacchanal is a wild
frolic, witty and mischievous. All four sound pictures are vividly drawn, richly
harmonised and colourfully orchestrated.
The Romantic Suite offers three more resplendent sound pictures. The
opening movement, 'Night Magic' is a sumptuous, realisation of - '…the springs
flow between lakes and flowers far to the quiet woodland lakes where the marble
statues are erected in beautiful solitude. Softly coming down the mountains
awakening the ancient songs, the wondrous night descends and the grounds sparkle
once again as you've so often seen in dreams.' Botstein weaves sheer enchantment
here; the music, perfumed, shimmers luxuriously. The ballet-like 'Fairies',
the second movement, maintains the spell '…We've covered the valley's dance
floor with moonlight, glow-worms light up the ballroom…', the music fairy-dainty,
gossamer light, puckish and mercurial fleet-footed, the melodies dewily romantic.
'Eagle' brings the dawn with music that softly brushes aside the mists and dreams
of the night to usher in the magnificence of the rising sun and the awakening
of the world. A colourful crescendo bursting forth in splendour.
Catherine Wyn-Rogers as the dying suppliant in Reger's realisation of Hölderlin's
'An die Hoffnung' (To Hope) is suitably doleful and soulful. 'Where are you,
O hope! I've lived so little; yet I feel the cold breath of my evening…' cheering
briefly for fonder remembrances of 'the green valley where the fresh spring
A sumptuous feast of Late Romantic splendour – music to set the imagination
flying. Heartfelt performances communicated with verve and attack aplenty; and
captured in Telarc's stunning sound. Heartily recommended for all unashamed