In the liner notes of this album, I came upon a telling quotation concerning Reger: "... an American critic quipped that, like his name, Reger's music sounded the same backwards as forwards!" Unflattering, but if you're honest you'll be forced to admit that it has a bit of truth to it. With his obsessive need to imitate Bach's technique and extreme, undisciplined use of chromaticism, Reger's music can seem to meander without any sense of development toward a narrative goal. The more instruments he uses, the more directions a piece of his music can take off into. Unsatisfying. This also means that the fewer instruments, the more satisfying. This is why his solo string music can be some of his most rewarding music.
Reger's solo viola suites bear a close resemblence to his solo cello suites. They both resemble Bach's solo string music. So Reger's suites are pleasant, but not very original. The emotional depths a solo string instrument can plunge into are not explored here. Still, with only a single intrument to work with, they're some of his most coherent music. This is melodious, worthwhile music. George Robertson gives us a smooth, graceful performance, though we wish for more intensity in the rare passages that call for it.
With three instruments, the two serenades do a bit of the meandering I mentioned earlier. But it's still some of Reger's simplest and most engaging music. Here, we don't hear Bach. Mostly, I think we hear Mozart, with a bit of the light French style of Poulenc. Anna Noakes' beautiful flute performance really stands out. Quite enjoyable.
Let me note a couple of things about this particular recording. First, you'll notice on the cover that this is Volume 1. This recording is part of a very brief two volume survey of Reger's chamber and solo music. Volume 2 is a complete recording of Reger's Preludes and Fugues for solo violin, performed by Mateja Marinkovic. Second, notice that when the Amazon.com people put music samples on the web page, they put the Third Suite on twice and left out the Second Serenade. Believe me, the Second Serenade is on the recording.
So if you're looking for a recording of the Reger viola suites, I think this would be a fine recording to buy. The serenades make for a very nice added bonus.