Ulrike-Anima Mathé

Reger: Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin, Op. 91

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Max Reger's seven unaccompanied Violin Sonatas, Op. 91, are not mainstream works, as their few recordings suggest. But if any set were to help establish them in the repertoire, it would have to be Ulrike-Anima Mathé's 1992 performances for Dorian. In such a groundbreaking endeavor, she has found a distinctive voice in these pieces that gives them strong appeal, and the smoothness and precision of her playing make them rather pleasant to hear, even in one sitting. As a composer, Reger sometimes seemed to have a split musical personality, writing music either in an extremely chromatic, dense, and complicated post-Romantic manner, as he did in much of his organ music, or doing the opposite by composing in a diatonic, almost Classical vein, often in his chamber music. The latter style prevails in the violin sonatas, which appear to be influenced above all by J.S. Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert, the last especially in the dance-like movements. There is no sense that these are cunning pastiches, because Reger's consistency of approach and sincere expression make the music seem a natural part of his idiom. Yet there is an almost aching feeling of nostalgia in this music that points to Reger's obsessive preoccupation with the past, and his use of Baroque and Classical ideas makes the violin sonatas sound a bit quaint for 1905, the year of their composition. Even so, many listeners will prefer this aspect of Reger to his more demanding and tortured persona, and it seems evident from her enthusiastic playing that Mathé found much to enjoy in these melodious and charming pieces. Dorian's sound quality is clear and close-up, so the violin has a warm presence without sounding gritty.

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