Michael Korstick / Ulf Schirmer

Max Reger: Piano Concerto

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Much of Reger's vast output is either chamber music suited for small halls or organ music suited to churches, but his only piano concerto, in F minor, is a good candidate for orchestral concerts. It's a big three-movement work in the mold of Brahms' D minor Concerto, full of passionate themes, dramatic gestures, and heroic virtuosity, and one would have thought that pianists eager to play Romantic concertos other than Brahms' would have given it a shot.

Surprisingly, before this release, only Rudolf Serkin among the great pianists had recorded Reger's concerto. On this CPO disc, pianist Michael Korstick, accompanied by conductor Ulf Schirmer and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, triumphantly takes on the piece. In Korstick's capable hands, Reger's music sounds as passionate, dramatic, and virtuosic as Brahms. Korstick has the technique to master the work's massive chords and monumental arabesques, the head to solve its knotty contrapuntal problems, and the heart to make its themes sing and its developments soar. This may not be the ultimate Reger concerto recording, since Serkin is every bit as capable as Korstick and quite a bit deeper in the work's central Largo con gran espressione, but it is a very fine performance.

The release also includes Bach's D minor Keyboard Concerto arranged for piano and modern orchestra by Ferruccio Busoni, a fabulous transcription and a wonderful find. Without violating the music's integrity, Busoni has transformed it into a bigger, more overly emotional work, and Korstick, Schirmer, and the Munich musicians give it as much fire and energy as they do the Reger. In short, a superb disc full of convincing performances of out-of-the-way repertoire, recorded in cool, deep, and detailed sound.

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