MAX REGER: Music for Clarinet and Piano = Albumblatt; Sonata; Sonata in F-sharp minor; Sonata in B-flat major; Tarantella – Alan R. Kay, clar./Jon Klibonoff, p. – Bridge

MAX REGER: Music for Clarinet and Piano = Albumblatt; Sonata in A-flat major, Op. 49, No. 2; Sonata in F-sharp minor, Op. 49. No. 1; Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 107; Tarantella – Alan R. Kay, clarinet/Jon Klibonoff, p. – Bridge 9461, 71:58 (4/04/16) ****:

Very rewarding performances of some lesser known works.

There has been something of a resurgence in the music of Max Reger lately, with several new recordings that have caught my attention; everything from his organ preludes to some choral works and more recordings of his clarinet works. Interestingly, it is his clarinet music – especially the two sonatas of the Opus 49 – that may be his best known works. I have played and admired these two sonatas for some time.

One can certainly hear the strains of Brahms, who Reger greatly admired, throughout all of this music. The two famous sonatas, not to mention the others played here, never became as well-known as those by Brahms probably due to their very adventuresome harmonic discourse and the very challenging piano parts. It is also said that Reger, himself, was a rather reclusive and hard to-get-along-with-person; that may have stunted his renown. Oh well. These works are masterpieces that all clarinetists should know. Another thing I greatly enjoyed about this collection is the inclusion of the three much lesser known or played pieces. Both the Albumblatt and the Tarantella are very brief and pleasant forays that were written for a music journal and intended as short recital intros or encores. Nothing too complicated really, but charming little works.

What I found very interesting is the B-flat major Sonata of 1909, the Opus 107. Of all Reger’s major chamber works, this one has, arguably, the most daring harmonic landscape; leaving the tonic key and returning sharply and suddenly at several times along the way. I love the quote attributed to Reger regarding this piece in which he sarcastically declared the B-flat Sonata to be his “new crime against harmony and counterpoint.”

Lastly, high praise goes to both to clarinetist Alan Kay and pianist Jon Klibonoff. Alan is a graduate of the Juilliard School and principal clarinet of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Jon Klibonoff is also a Juilliard graduate and has appeared with a number of American symphony orchestras and teaches at the Manhattan School of Music. Highly recommended!

—Daniel Coombs

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