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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Clarinet Quintet in A major Op.146 (1909)
String Quartet in Eb major Op. 109 (1915)
Wenzel Fuchs (clarinet)
Philharmonia Quartett Berlin
Rec. 19th-22nd April 1999 Kleiner Sendesaal SFB, Berlin.
NAXOS 8.554510 [72.18]
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Max Reger was a prolific composer, but he also died young, at the age of just 43. The Clarinet Quintet, in fact, was his last completed work. The fact that he was so prolific has led to many misconceptions about him, misconceptions that generally are made before even a note of his music has been heard. The unkindest jibe of all, of course, is the old joke that his music, like his name, sounds the same backwards or forwards.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as this excellent Naxos disc will testify. The Clarinet Quintet is an autumnal work, certainly inspired by the example of Brahms, and cast in the same key as Mozart's Quintet. It stands worthily alongside them both. If this claim seems extravagant, just listen to the Reger's magical opening paragraph.

The role of the clarinet is never concertante in nature. Rather his preference is to create a partnership of equals, a beautiful blending. The tone is intimate, and this performance is wholly committed to his cause, with recorded sound which is absolutely appropriate to chamber music.

The fourth of Reger's string quartets, composed in 1911, makes up the remainder of the programme. The noted Reger enthusiast Lindsay Thomson has described this as 'by far the finest of the composer's quartets', praising particularly the slow movement as one of the best movements to be found in all Reger's output. Again the performance is idiomatic and sensitive, and the recording excellent. At the bargain Naxos price, there seems no reason for collectors to hesitate.

Terry Barfoot

See also review by John France

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