MAX REGER: Der Einsiedler, Op. 144a; Drei sechsstimmige Chore, Op. 39; Drei Chore, Op. 6; Drei Gesange, Op. 111b; Palmsonntagmorgen; Requiem, Op. 144b – Christopher Glynn, piano/ Consortium/ Andrew-John Smith – Hyperion 67762, 66:22 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Max Reger’s brief 43 years on this earth did little to impede productivity; though his likely self-caused demise (food, liquor, and tobacco) might betray a life of excess, he was in fact a man who worked diligently and consistently. Nevertheless, because of temperament, musical conservatism, and face it, lack of talent compared to many of his peer competitors, history has not been kind to him aside from a few signature works.
I have always wondered if it would be better for those preparing to explore this composer to turn to his vocal works first. Here he shines, setting many texts that Strauss, Brahms, and others set, and easily holding his own. The works on this disc lack the turgid and sometimes tortured harmonic thickness and overwrought counterpoint that often turns open-minded listeners into fervent detractors, and one can hear a spiritual essence in this music that is simply lacking in his more nakedly instrumental forms.
Among his last works are the divided Opus 144 that opens and closes this disc, starting with a poem on Palm Sunday morning and closing with a “Requiem” which is anything but, in fact just another poetry setting. Reger in fact was raised Catholic but gravitated musically towards the Protestant faith of his wife. No matter, a rose by any other name and all of that, but these are all sweet works indeed, recorded beautifully and sung as well by Consortium. At first I wondered if the English white-toned singers would be able to provide enough of a sauerkraut smell to these works, but the quality of singing won me over quickly, and what might be missing in authenticity is easily assuaged by the obvious love these people have for the music. A real treat then, and one that the Reger-averse should turn to post-haste.
— Steven Ritter
An excellent DG debut!