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Max REGER (1873-1916)
String Trio in A minor Op.77b (1904) [24:17]
Piano Quartet in D minor Op.113 (1910) [47:56]
Aperto Piano Quartet
rec. Siemensvilla, Berlin-Lankwitz, February 2007 (Trio); Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks, Frankfurt am Main, March 2003 (Quartet)
NAXOS 8.570785 [72:22]
Experience Classicsonline

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.
Jonathan Woolf
see also review of Volume 2 (8.570786) by Kevin Sutton


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