Gerd Zacher

Max Reger: Grand Organ Works

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Max Reger's music is not stylistically uniform, but the three organ works on this album from Aeolus represent what many regard as his typical approach: each piece involves highly chromatic counterpoint that results in unstable harmonies and far-flung modulations, sometimes to the point where the very concept of key becomes moot. The Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in F sharp minor, Op. 73, is a dense and ponderous essay, with an intensely dark mood established at the outset and pursued relentlessly throughout, with only a little light revealed in the final cadence. The Chorale Prelude on "Komm, süßer Tod" is a quiet and somber interlude that provides a respite from the labored music of the Variations, but its calmness is soon overwhelmed by the restless Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue in E minor, which is in some ways a more bewildering and unsettling work than the opening selection because of its sudden mood swings, thicker textures, and fiercer dissonances. The performances by Gerd Zacher are clear and as coherent as possible in this knotty music, and the rich sound of the 1900 E.F. Walcker organ is appropriate to Reger's time period. But unless your taste runs to the most elaborate, arcane, and lugubrious forms of late-Romantic organ music, this album will probably merit only one hearing, due to its heaviness and gloom.

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