MAX REGER: Comp. Works for Clarinet & Piano – Robert Oberaigner, clar./Michael Schöch, p. – MD&G Scenes

Another nice addition to the growing Reger renaissance.

MAX REGER “Complete works for Clarinet and Piano” = MAX REGER: Sonata No.1 in A-flat major, Op.49/1; Sonata No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 49/2; Sonata in B-flat major, Op.107; Tarantella; Album Leaf – Robert Oberaigner, clarinet/Michael Schöch, p. – MD&G Scene MDG 903 1963-6, 79:33 (8/05/16) [Distr. by E1] ****:

This is the third album of Max Reger’s complete music for clarinet and piano I have seen and heard these past six months. Clearly the somewhat obscure and somewhat irascible early twentieth century German composer is having a bit of a Renaissance; including recent releases of his choral and organ output and some very rare orchestral music.

This is good because Reger was a very fine and somewhat daring composer whose main barriers to further renown were his own criticism of his works; hiding and sequestering them in some cases for years and that documented prickly personality. Interestingly, his clarinet music was always among his best known output; of those many works, the two sonatas written as the opus forty-nine pair are the best known and most often performed. This is for good reason.

Those two works are masterpieces of swirling and wholly unpredictable harmonies and lovely melodies that showcase the clarinet’s various timbres very well.  The B-flat major Sonata, opus 107 is less known and another very nice work that probably should be played more often. Not all of his clarinet music is equally deserving of a major renaissance. The B-flat Sonata – along with his Quintet for clarinet and strings – are fine and somewhat quirky works that deserve to be played more often. The other two small works heard here, and in those other recent collections by other clarinetists, are essentially competition or recital bookends; little more than cute little trifles in my opinion.

The performances here are quite good. Clarinetist Robert Oberaigner has a focused but warm tone and a nice sense of proper tempo and phrasing. Robert studied with Horst Hajek, Johann Hindler and Sabine Meyer at the Conservatory in Lübeck. He has served as Principal Clarinetist with the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, and the “Super World Orchestra” in Japan. Currently Oberaigner is Principal at the Staatskapelle Dresden. His accompanist, Michael Schöch is a renowned award winning pianist and organist who has received much acclaim for his recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas. So, there is no point trying to say if this recording of Reger’s clarinet music is the “definitive” one; although you could not go wrong making this one the sole representative in your collection. There is much to admire here for clarinetists as well as for fans of Max Reger’s music. Highly recommended!

—Daniel Coombs

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