As with their series of recordings "The Romantic Piano Concerto", Hyperion is clearly trying to bring to light neglected violin concerti, which are composed in a very "accessible" style with this separate series of recordings. This series reaches # 11 with a recording of Max Reger's op. 101 Violin Concerto in A, and his "Two Romances", op. 50.
Reger's concerto lasts about 57 minutes, in 3 large-scale movements, with the first taking up almost 27 minutes alone. Little wonder that the composer himself described the concerto as "a monster". In his liner notes, Wolfgang Rathert (translated by Charles Johnston) says that "the concerto's very wealth of ideas and overabundance of beauties go hand in hand with a loss of clarity of outline for the listener." For me, however, the profusion of invention never quite coalesces into any big tunes that are comparable to those from the "big 4" violin concerti in the standard repertoire (Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky), with honorable mention to Bruch 1, Elgar and Walton. The violin writing is quite lyrical throughout, but again, even after listening to it twice, I couldn't find myself able to recall any particular tune. Nothing about this score is "inaccessible", not at all, but this relative lack of "big tunes", besides the work's sheer length and massive technical demands for the soloist, help to explain why this concerto has never entered the standard repertoire.
It may then seem unfair to contrast this "monster" concerto with the "Two Romances", which are obviously on a much smaller scale and are much less ambitious in their scope. According to Rathert's note, Reger composed these romances as "calling cards" to try to make a mark in a relatively populist violin concertante form. Yet it's hard not to escape the feeling that even though these op. 50 Romances aim lower, they hit the mark, compared to the concerto trying to scale the heights and not quite, perhaps, reaching the summit. The op. 50 Romances are real charmers and would definitely surprise anyone who has any sort of impression of Max Reger's music as "heavy". If nothing else, the op. 50 Romances are proof that Reger could "lighten up" when needed, I think that they would go down very well as a novelty in a live concert, if any violinist were enterprising enough to revive them for live performance. I would likewise be pleased to read of any violinist who wanted to revive the op. 101 concerto.
However, I don't expect anyone to revive the concerto soon in concert. Thus, by default, the best way for curious or adventurous listeners to learn more about these works would be recordings. Fortunately, in the case of this new Hyperion issue, we are in excellent hands in both works. Tanja Becker-Bender is well up to the demands of the concerto, and also shows a suitably lighter touch in the Romances. Likewise, the Konzerthaus Orchestra of Berlin and their former chief conductor, Lothar Zagrosek, provide splendid orchestral support. So if you want to check out these particular works, you need not hesitate with this recording. It may be your only means, for the duration.