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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, January 2009

Collectors will know how closely tied was the ‘Reger generation’ of instrumentalists to his chamber music. One needn’t look much farther than Adolf Busch or the Klingler Quartet for firsthand evidence of the permanence they attached to the composer’s chamber works.

Helpfully the Klingler’s mid-1930s recording of the Reger string trio promoted in this Naxos release by members of the Aperto Piano Quartet has been reissued on Testament. As usual comparisons prove fruitful, not least because in its earlier incarnation the Klingler was busily active—and recording —during the later part of Reger’s life. The Aperto play with luxuriant warmth whilst the old Klingler espoused a far nervier, edgier, more staccato-based sound world. In their hands Reger sounds more unsettled and unsettling. The less uncomfortable and more inherently unstable picture is not a reflection of more limited technical standards, though theirs was, by this time, a rather old fashioned sound in the light of their more up to date contemporaries. The important thing, I think, is the ‘alto’ character of the music making as against the richer, darker more homogenised almost cellistic patina espoused by the Aperto and by most modern ensembles.

Nevertheless they deal with the work’s Mozartean aspects well —in particular its fluency and suppleness. The fluidity of metre, changes of mood, alternately tempestuous and refined are also well explored. There are some finely and acutely judged dynamics in the second movement and the relative pensiveness of some of the writing falls well on the ear by virtue of the excellent ensemble work and intonation. The lightness and ease of the Mozartian finale—judicious pizzicati, gallant flourishes—are also adeptly done. It makes the charge of Reger’s contemporaries that this trio was a clearly retrogressive ‘joke’, all the more baseless.

The Piano Quartet followed in 1910, a work inspired by Reger having heard a performance of Brahms’s C minor Piano Quartet. There’s some strenuous passagework in the powerful Allegro moderato first movement and whilst there are moments of lyric reprieve the spirit generally is moody and resigned. Big boned dynamism reigns in the scherzo, a touch unwieldy sounding, though it does also sport a reflective B section. The heart of such feelings is contained in the communing and expressive slow movement, whilst the finale is volatile, voluble and flecked with Regerian humour—still a strenuous kind, of course. 

The String Trio was recorded in the Siemensvilla, Berlin-Lankwitz in what sounds like quite a big acoustic. The Studio recording for the Quintet is less enveloping.



David Denton
The Strad, December 2008

Max Reger's standing as a composer now largely resides in his works for organ, though chamber music occupied much of his attention throughout his short life. The present release, which promises to be the first of two discs containing his complete piano quartets and string trios, includes the massive D minor Piano Quartet, a score lasting over three-quarters of an hour. It owes much to the influence of Brahms, and the strength of the rugged opening movement is balanced by a vivacious scherzo of frolicsome humour. The premonition of Reger's brief existence dominates a nostalgic Larghetto before an animated finale turns the mood full circle to the craggy opening.

The Aperto Piano Quartet, formed around two founder members of the Petersen Quartet, has the tonal weight that brings a feeling of unbridled passion to the outer movements. Frank-Immo Zichner's piano is full-toned yet never overpowers his colleagues, whose string intonation is impeccable throughout. The drawback is a slightly congested recording made in 2003, but seemingly making its first appearance.

The scoring of the much shorter A minor String Trio is full of dynamic contrasts and tonal colouring, with a sombre and dramatic opening that sets the general character for the whole work. I have the greatest admiration for the Aperto's detailed performance, and though the group's viola player had changed by the time of this 2007 recording, the tonal quality remains much as before. The engineers have here provided a pleasing and transparent quality. A much-recommended budget-price release.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2008

The name of Max Reger now largely resides in the organ loft, though in a short life affected by alcohol, he wrote in most genres, his desire to continue where Brahms and Schumann left off clearly shown in his robust catalogue of chamber works. He certainly mastered the art of writing for String Trio, the format that can so easily become a watered-down string quartet. Here it has warmth, strength and the most readily attractive melodic invention, the sombre Larghetto offset by the short and vivacious scherzo and bold final allegro. It came from 1904, mid-way through his short compositional career, while the Piano Quartet marks the culmination of his maturity in 1910. It was while preparing the Brahms C minor Piano Quartet for performance that the idea came to mind to write one of his own. The relationship is strong without being derivative, the piano providing the driving power in a score of symphonic weight and proportions.  At over three-quarters of an hour it is long, the highly imposing opening movement balanced by an extended and beautiful slow movement which comes third. This is my first encounter with the Aperto Piano Quartet, the playing throughout of the highest quality, Frank-Immo Zichner, a most powerful and imposing pianist. For some reason the Piano Quartet recording has been hanging about since its Frankfurt sessions in 2003, a change in viola since then seeming to have changed little in their sound quality. The major difference is the recorded sound, the 2007 Berlin sessions for the String Trio a marked improvement over a slightly congested quality of the Piano Quartet. Yet if you do not already know this music, I beg of you to hear this inexpensive disc which presents the works in the most favourable performances.






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