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CD Review

Max Reger

Late Chamber Works

  • Clarinet Quintet in A Major, Op. 146
  • String Sextet in F Major, Op. 118
Ensemble Villa Musica
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3041557-2 72m DDD
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Although Max Reger (1873-1916) is one of the most mature composers of the 20th century, his death in 1916 in the middle of the Great War may have contributed to the relative lack of interest in his work. It is only in the last two decades that his music is starting to be regarded as truly warranting serious investigation.

Both works on this disc date from the last five years of Reger's life and both are among his finest chamber pieces. The String Sextet, Op. 118 was promised to be delivered to the Gewandhaus Chamber Music by March 1911, but the composer found the filling of this obligation to be a hard task. He rejected considerable parts of the score and composed them a second time, and in October 1910, his dissatisfaction with the first movement induced him to almost destroy it altogether. By November he was still far away from the finished product, and he had to toil even during the Christmas holidays to complete the work.

Just ten days before his death on 11th May 1916, Reger released his Clarinet Quintet for publication. The composer never intended the, Op. 146 to be his last piece, but Reger's swansong was well received, particularly by the critics who found in it a relaxed aura full of allusions to the compositions of his musical models.

Ensemble Villa Musica deliver performances of the utmost intensity, and their brilliant handling of these difficult scores makes compelling listening. Exemplary sound quality and some revealing notes complete an exciting issue dedicated to one of Germany's most complete musicians of the last century.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech