Organ Works Vol. 1
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|1. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Prld And Fugue in e, Op.69, Nos.1 And 2|
|2. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Basso Ostinato in e, Op.69, No.3|
|3. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Moment Musical in D, Op.69, No.4|
|4. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Capriccio in d, Op.69, No.5|
|5. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Toccata And Fugue in D, Op.69, Nos.6 And 7|
|6. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Romance in g, Op.69, No.8|
|7. Ten Pieces, Op.69: Prld And Fugue in a, Op.69, Nos.9 And 10|
|8. Prld And Fugue in c#, Op.85, No.1|
|9. Prld And Fugue in G, Op.85, No.2|
|10. Prld And Fugue in F, Op.85, No.3|
Reger had a great sense of humor. On reading a poor review of one of his pieces he wrote to the critic in question: "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment, it will be behind me." What a shame, then, that so little of this humor carried over to his music! Not that it's bad, but it is an acquired taste in some ways. All but the organ works, that is, which for many German organists constitute the late 19th- and early 20th-century's answer to Bach. Again, this is a matter of taste, but there's no denying the composer's mastery of his craft, or his ability to conjure up powerful ideas on the instrument. This disc is the first in a projected series that should go far to introduce this neglected music to an interested public. --David Hurwitz
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Reger has probably never been as popular as the work of his French contemporaries. For one, his main inspiration is the work of Johann Sebastian Bach. He sought to combine Baroque compositional techniques with the rich Romantic harmony of the post-Wagner era. All of his works are extremely well put together and offer many intellectual rewards for those willing to take the time.
Haas gives a wonderful performance of Reger's work. His performance lacks the fire of Mary Preston's recordings of some of Reger's work on Gothic. This recording also offers the bonus of hearing Reger's music on a German Romantic organ. German Romantic instruments are much heavier sounding than their French contemporaries. However, Reger's music was thought out for a German Romantic organ.
This CD will offer many rewards for fans of late Baroque counterpoint. I am probably one of the few who are taken with late Baroque counterpoint. This CD is also an excellent introduction to an unfairly neglected composer. Reger's music was held in high esteem by composers of the stature of Arnold Schoenberg.
It is even better to know, then, that the disc is deserving of a good review on more than just principle. The music itself is wonderful, though definitely not for everyone- Reger sought to reconcile the structural strictness of baroque music with the harmonic freedom of the late romantic, and either of these on their own are probably unappealing to the average listener. But then, the average listener is unlikely to hear Reger anyway, and his music will quite possibly be a delight to the more adventurous individual.
The most frequently recurring works on this disc are fugues, but even works with less imposing names, such as "Romance", are not particularly "fun". Reger's music needs to be appreciated intellectually. I am made giddy by particularly clever shows of contrapuntal skill, but I imagine that I am part of a minority. In any case, the performances here do nothing to 'dress up' Reger's organ music to make it more appealing, but rather go slightly to the opposite extreme. These recordings are often extremely quiet, yet very loud on occasion. For that reason they do not suffer background noise, and some of the fugue countersubjects can be nearly inaudible except under the best listening conditions. There is nothing otherwise disagreeable in the performances, however, and the less-than-perfect engineering is very forgivable in the context of making this underrated composer available for the consideration of adventurous shoppers who are willing to try something new for around 5 dollars.
Many lovers of music are unfamiliar with the literature of the organ beyond the works of Bach. As this CD shows, composition for this glorious instrument has continued. There is much to get to know and to appreciate.
But why Max Reger? Reger wrote prolifically for the orchestra and piano, but his love was for the organ. In some ways, he represents a meeting of Brahms and Wagner in late romanticism as reflected on the organ. Like Brahms, Reger was a scholar of baroque music. He immersed himself in counterpoint and in the study of Bach. But Reger combines his knowledge of the baroque with Wagner's chromaticism and harmonic shifting. This is an intriguing combination which sometimes makes for difficult listening.
Reger was a twentieth century composer, and the two collections on this CD are from early in his career. The more accessible of the two is the three (of four) preludes and fugues of opus 85 composed in 1904. I found that in these three pieces the fugues flow seamlessly from the opening preludes The first and the third of the set, in C sharp minor and in F major, begin quietly and work slowly to a dramatic close. The second prelude and fugue, in G major, begins with a strongly rhythmical figure in the low register echoed in the upper register. A climactic passage at the end of the prelude is followed by a piping fugue.
The other work on this CD is the ten pieces for organ, opus 69, composed in 1903. There are several types of works in this collection, including an extensive, and harmonically ambiguous, prelude and fugue in E minor, a fiery toccata and fugue in D major, and a concluding and intense Prelude and Fugue in A minor. The remaining four pieces consist of single movements in a variety of styles, a basso ostinato in E minor with a swirling figure over a pulsating figure in the bass, a quiet moment musical in D major, a short, lively d minor cappricio, and a hushed romance in G minor.
The pieces in this set are in a variety of moods, but many of them are difficult. The music seems to sway at times from key to key and there are abrubt changes in the organ's register. I am not sure whether these passages, in which Wagner rests somewhat confusedly with Bach, are due to Reger or to the performance. It probably has something to do with both.
After listening to this CD several times, I came across a review by Stephen Haylett in the July, 1998 "BBC music". Haylett's review is posted on a fine website devoted to the music of Reger. With respect to the recording of the ten pieces, opus 69, Haylett writes: "Bernard Hass ... gives competent readings of these minatures, but his technique lets him down on occasion, smudging textures and compromising the rhythmic flow of the music through changes of registration. He isn't helped by a rather foggy recorded sound." I found Haylett's comments highly perceptive. In other words, this is late-romantic chromatic music combined, uneasily in places, with a deeply contrapuntal style.
Listeners wanting to know something of Max Reger and to learn about modern music written for the organ will want to hear this disk.
In recent years, that's all changed. Don't ask why, but suddenly I'm hearing this music as if for the first time, and I'm ready to admit that my earlier judgement was ill-based.
So, it's with particular pleasure that I have been following this new series of Reger's organ works on Naxos and I note here the pleasure with which I have taken each new release beginning with this Vol 1 into my collection.
I've noted with interest the comments of the others who have already submitted reviews and agree with the reserved views expressed there.
My own responses to the recordings, however, begin with an expression of satisfaction about the organ chosen, a fine Link instrument, located in the Evangelical Church, Giengen an der Brenz, Germany, which has all the variety and colour necessary for Reger's works. While the recording itself captures quieter sections well, because of the church's acoustics, the reverberation level tends to cloud louder portions - a problem that could have been resolved by the sound engineers.
The repertoire itself is varied in mood and tempo and highly-listenable, beginning as it does with the ten short pieces of Op 69, including a delicious Moment musical, a tongue-in-cheek Capriccio, a bouncy Basso ostinato, and three well-constructed fugues each with their own prelude.
The real delight with this recording came from hearing the three Preludes and Fugues of Op 85 where Reger's excitingly shimmering chromaticism stands out, along with his ability to build towards the 'grand gesture', and his innate control of contrapuntal technique.
I would recommend this recording to anyone who has not experienced Reger's organ writings before, because it gives an effective introduction and, at Naxos' minimal price, is well worth the risk. To those who would like to build a complete representation of his works in their library, Vol 1 and the others are a 'must'.