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Max Reger: The Forgotten Romantic

Reger / Thomas
Release Date: 05/14/2013 
Label:  Aca Digital   Catalog #: 20062   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Max Reger
Performer:  Martha Thomas
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 43 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

REGER Silhouetten (7), op. 53. Zehn kleine Vortragsstücke, op. 44. Sechs Intermezzi, op. 45. Blätter und Blüten (12). Sechs Klavierstücke: Grüße an die Jugend Martha Thomas (pn) ACA 20062 (2 CDs: 103:43)


Read more /> Reger’s pieces for solo piano have been a real voyage of discovery for me. Before interviewing Martha Thomas and reviewing her two-disc Reger set, I’m not sure I’d ever heard any of the composer’s piano music before. My familiarity with Reger was primarily through his orchestral and chamber works, and secondarily through some of his organ works.


The pieces on these discs are mostly miniatures, the three longest ones—Nos. 2 and 4 from the set of Six Intermezzi, op. 45, and No. 3 from the Six Piano Pieces, subtitled “Greetings to Youth”—last for just under six minutes apiece, but they are the exceptions. The average duration among the 41 numbers is under three minutes.


As noted in the interview, Schumann and Brahms figure heavily as influences in these pieces, as do, but to a lesser extent, I think, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Grieg, and some of the later contemplative, chromatic pieces by Liszt. Reger reflects these influences, but in his own personal and unique way. Numbers that often begin as nostalgic strolls down Romanticism’s memory lane seem suddenly to go off course and become momentarily disoriented in strange surroundings signposted by unfamiliar harmonic juxtapositions that sound quite modern.


One piece, for example, that particularly fascinated me was “Albumblatt,” the first number in the Zehn kleine Vortragsstücke , which Phil Muse’s album note translates as “Ten Little Performance Pieces.” Two different online translators, however, translate Vortrag as “lecture,” so I’m guessing a closer rendering of the title might be “Ten Little Study Pieces.” In any case, the jazz-like harmonies and rhythms, and especially the way the phrases kind of sneak up on their cadences, made me think of what a Scott Joplin rag would sound like if it were played in slow motion. I don’t know if Reger ever heard a note of Joplin’s music or even knew who he was, but the comparison is not that far-fetched when you realize that Reger (1873–1916) and Joplin (1867–1917) were almost exact contemporaries.


Here I’ve singled out only one short piece out of 41, but I can promise you that every single number on these two discs will simultaneously charm you as it bends your ear. Martha Thomas is a most extraordinary artist who is to be doubly commended, both for her gorgeous playing of these pieces and for her dedication to this amazing body of work by a composer whose solo piano music has received scant attention on record. Urgently recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Silhouettes (7) for Piano, Op. 53 by Max Reger
Performer:  Martha Thomas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Germany 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 18 Minutes 40 Secs. 
2.
Kleine Vortragsstücke (10) for Piano, Op. 44 by Max Reger
Performer:  Martha Thomas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Germany 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 15 Minutes 17 Secs. 
3.
Intermezzi (6) for Piano, Op. 45 by Max Reger
Performer:  Martha Thomas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Germany 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 22 Minutes 26 Secs. 
4.
Blätter und Blüten (12) for Piano by Max Reger
Performer:  Martha Thomas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900-1902; Germany 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 21 Minutes 43 Secs. 
5.
Grüße an die Jugend (Greetings to the Young), pieces (6) for piano by Max Reger
Performer:  Martha Thomas (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1898 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 20 Minutes 26 Secs. 

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