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Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide, March 2009

This is Volume 2 of the complete Reger Piano Quartets and String Trios. Volume 1, with the Op. 113 quartet and the Op. 77b trio was released on Naxos 8.570785…This music is typical Reger—very rich, thick, and intense…Not that these players seem unconvinced—this is a fine performance, committed and devoted. The players are technically beyond reproach, each with a large and lovely tone. Perhaps a lighter approach can serve to make this music somewhat more transparent, but the Apertos choose to take Reger at his word and play full tilt. If you enjoy Reger—and his music is often enough performed that there are fans out there—you won’t go wrong with these performances.

Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, November 2008

Max Reger was a prolific loner whose career seemed to vacillate readily between having success as a professor, being misunderstood as a member of the avant-garde, and being derided for his old-fashioned devotion to tonality and traditional structural forms. What is left to us is a large body of work, some of which is over-ripe and difficult to digest. Yet for all of his excursions into then uncharted chromatic harmonies, fiendishly difficult keyboard music written for himself to play and structural architecture often stretched to the breaking point, we still have a composer of often profound depth and surprising originality. 

A virtuoso pianist with an active performing career, Reger had a great love for chamber music, much of which was composed for strings and piano with himself as the soloist of choice. His two piano quartets are influenced by the work of Johannes Brahms, a composer whom Reger played and admired. This second quartet is full of storms, and yet its overall demeanor is carefully shaded in melancholy so as to give it a rather sweet and autumnal feeling. The opening allegro is full of passionate outbursts with some very thick textures and heavy handed piano writing. The second movement vivace is much more playful and a welcome relief from the thunderstorm of the first movement. There follows a graceful and tender largo and a spirited allegro ending. 

It would be very easy to let this music derail emotionally, as it is just close enough to the edge of excess to get syrupy in the wrong hands. The Aperos however give us a balanced and nuanced performance with romantic gush given just the right amount of restraint to keep us listening. Any more passion would be over the top, any less would result in too academic a reading. The thick texture of the piano writing is kept in check by Frank-Immo Zichner, and his string playing colleagues have ample power to keep up with what is at times some overly dense keyboard writing. 

Lovely as the quartet may be, the real gem of this disc is the elegant String Trio in d minor, Op. 141b, which was reconstituted from an earlier serenade for flute. From a warm and glowing opening movement, we move to an elegant theme and variations, quite touching in its simple beauty. The work is rounded off by a sprightly little vivace. One really could not ask for a finer performance. The sound is warm and balanced and themes sing like arias in a Bellini opera. 

The stretching of tonality and the frequent chromatic shifts in harmony might be a turn off to some listeners, but for anyone who enjoys late romantic music, this disc is a winner. It left me anxious to check out its companion disc (Naxos 8.570785) to see what Reger’s earlier outings in the same two instrumental line-ups might sound like. 

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2008

In August I gave a warm welcome to the first of two discs containing Max Reger’s complete String Trios and Piano Quartets (8.570785). The second proves equally rewarding. Even in his short life Reger created a sizeable catalogue of chamber music, and showed in his two scores for string trio a total mastery of the idiom. The Second came from 1915, in the later part of his career, and though it shares with the earlier score a warmth of expression, there was now a sense of sadness in the opening allegro. The yearning theme establishes the second movement variations with a poignancy that is eventually offset by a finale where lightness of touch recalls Mendelssohn. The Piano Quartet stands somewhere between Brahms and Richard Strauss, but with a playful finale that is pure Reger. Sample the disc in the extended slow movement, one of the most intrinsically beautiful outpourings from the late-Romantic era. As with the first disc, the German-based Aperto Piano Quartet is outstanding, and get deep under the skin of each piece. In Frank-Immo Zichner they have a strong pianist who adds considerable weight without overpowering his colle agues. The Piano Quartet was recorded in 2002, though seemingly making its first appearance, while the String Trio comes from sessions last year. Both are the product of German Radio recordings and are in a well balanced studio sound. As with the previous release, I beg of you to make acquaintance with this music through two inexpensive discs, it is a treat you must not miss.

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