Various Artists

Reger: Works for Orchestra

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Why record Max Reger's orchestral works? Well known in his time as the last scion to the German contrapuntal heritage, the Bavarian composer's reputation slowly faded with his death in 1916, and by the '70s, performances and recordings of his music had all but ceased. Except, apparently, in East Germany, where these seven discs featuring 13 orchestral works by Reger were recorded between 1963 and 1986. With Franz Konwitschny, Otmar Suitner, and Heinz Bongartz leading the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, and the Berlin Rundfunk-Sinfonie, there's no doubt that the crème de la crème of the Democratic Republic's musicians were involved. But still, even in the most devoted performances, why record Max Reger's orchestral works? By genre, there are the sets of variations, the suites of character pieces, and the works with soloist, but by temperament they are all almost invariably thick, heavy, and stolid, there are few moments of beauty -- the magical opening of the Notturno from Eine romantische Suite, for example, or the rapt Molto sostenuto from the Mozart Variations -- surrounded by vast stretches of bare and barren countryside strung with endless lines of counterpoint. As a composer, Reger conspicuously lacked two things: a sense of drama -- the Symphonischer Prolog zu einer Tragödie almost immediately gets lost in its own turgid textures -- and a sense of rhythm -- the lithesome tune of the Valse d'amour from Eine balletsuite is hopelessly stuck in stagnant sonorities -- and these lacks make his music almost unendurable for most listeners. Recorded in sound that ranges from gray mid-'60s stereo to harsh early-'80s digital, these performances are only for hardcore fans of fin de siècle composers who already know by heart all the orchestral music of Strauss, Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Schreker, and Zemlinsky.

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 114
blue highlight denotes track pick