String Quartet Op 109 & Clarinet Quintet Op 146a
Quartet/Karl Leister (clarinet)
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One of my earliest chamber music acquisitions was this Reger string quartet
and, noticing its reappearance, my recall brought up a picture of the plum-label
78s and that they had been made by the Strub Quartet, of whom I never heard
otherwise. I was delighted to read in IRR later that Robert Layton, who must
be of my generation, had a similar recall, still had those 78s and so was
even able to give the HMV-EH record numbers!
This Eb quartet is a good example of late Reger, lusciously romantic, very
chromatic, with all the themes worked out contrapuntally, and a particularly
attractive final fugue in which he demonstrates his expertise. Played repeatedly
when I was a student, the music came back to me immediately more than fifty
years on, which must say something for it. The Clarinet Quintet, Reger's
last, autumnal, work (composed during the War in 1915/16) makes an ideal
partner, with clarinet and strings blending beautifully.
Both performances are affectionate, without being over-intense, and
satisfactorily recorded, though it is all a bit too well cushioned for my
taste - you scarcely hear the rasp of hair on gut (or their modern equivalents).
Indulgent music by today's prevailing taste, maybe, but Reger's craftsmanship
is impeccable and it makes a good nostalgic listen to times that are past
and were already changing in 1916.
Peter Grahame Woolf
See also review by Colin Anderson