Complete Clarinet Sonatas
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Although inspired by Brahms' clarinet sonatas, those of Max Reger are stamped with the original thematic material, harmonic progressions, expressive dynamics and intricate phrasing that make him a distinctly 20th-century composer. The high spirited charac
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'Tis bootless to exclaim the virtues of the little-loved Max Reger (it would seem) as to trudge coals to Newcastle; still, for art-lovers seeking new thrills, Reger's oeuvre offers curious colours and savoury flavours.
We may well ask, `Why (in some quarters) is Reger so ill-regarded?'
Answers are not difficult to find, for they relate primarily to space-time and the character of his art.
The historical facts turn upon (a) the loci of Reger's professional activities, and (b) the date of his early sudden death.
In an era when musical axes ran primarily from Berlin to Vienna and Paris to Petrograd, Reger worked in Munich (1901-07), Leipzig (1907-11), Meiningen (1911-15), and Jena (1915-16)--quite obviously off the high-road of fame, though we must recognize that during his lifetime Reger was known and respected from London to Petrograd and The Hague to Moskva, though he was virtually persona non grata in Paris.
In 1908 the University of Jena conferred an honorary doctorate on Reger--certain proof (if further needed) of his musical acuity.
With Reger's untimely death from a massive myocardial infarction (10 May 1916) in a small corner of Germany as the raging inferno of the European General War was consuming literally millions of other lives, his art fell into obscurity; and then after the War, with Teutonic kultur in disrepute, Reger was scarcely remembered outside the Low Countries and Austro-Alemannia.
Then there is something to say concerning the lack of appreciation of Reger's aesthetic: quite simply, he was a poor orchestrator at a time when opulent orchestration (e.g., Strauss, Mahler, Schönberg, Schreker) was the coin of the realm; Reger's talents reign supreme in the realm of chamber music--a characteristic he shares with Brahms: for like Brahms, Reger favoured the genres of string sextet, clarinet quintet, string quartet, piano quartet and trio, violin sonata, cello sonata, piano duet, and clarinet sonata.
Enthusiasts who relish Brahms's plummy clarinet sonatas will surely favour Reger's Op. 107--a generously buxom work in the fat round key of Bb-major, featuring mild chromaticism, elegant sonorities, delectable modulations, and pastel tones.
The performances here are flawlessly executed and finely recorded.