Reger: Clarinet Quintet, String Sextet / Ensemble Villa Musica
"This is something of an unexpected release. In the 1990s, MDG issued five numbered volumes of Reger’s chamber music, including the complete string quartets, all with ensembles centered on the Mannheim String Quartet. Apparently, however, that series has gone as far as it will go, since its last release is dated 1998. In the meantime, MDG has issued another disc of Reger’s two piano trios, and now this disc, neither with a volume number.
The Ensemble Villa Musica, a flexibly constituted group of Germany’s top instrumentalists, has also long been active with MDG, recording everything from Mozart to Hindemith. Perhaps the present release indicates that they are assuming the continuation of the Reger project; I believe this is their first recording of his music.
Clarinetist Rodenhäuser, the group’s leader, has chosen a fascinating pairing for this disc. The Clarinet Quintet, Reger’s last completed work (1915), is also probably his best-known chamber composition; by contrast, the String Sextet, also a late work (1910), is rarely encountered. Both combinations offer a wealth of opportunities for the sort of contrapuntal density that is so familiar in Reger’s music; the Quintet, however, favors instead a harmonic richness that, with the addition of the clarinet, gives the music an unprecedented warmth. The Sextet is “in F Major,” but the harmonic language of most of its first movement is so chromatic that this tonality really becomes clear only in retrospect. The opening is in Reger’s familiar spiky character, but this soon gives way to a great variety of textures: striking chorale-like passages, extensive octave doublings, and lyric episodes of the type that had begun creeping into Reger’s musical language more and more, beginning around the turn of the century. There is considerable lyricism, even delicacy, both in the first movement’s second group and in the trio of the Scherzo. MDG has the field pretty much to itself with the Sextet; while it has been recorded before—I have a Jecklin LP done by a group of Swiss musicians who sound like they have no idea what to make of the piece—this seems currently to be the only recording in print. The Villa Musica performance is confident and secure, and makes a good case for the piece as a representative of Reger’s evolving later style...MDG’s recording is exemplary as always: well detailed, but with plenty of space around the instruments. The notes, in three languages, cover all the important bases."
FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
Catalog Number: 3041557-2
Composer: Max Reger
Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Villa Musica
Performer: Benjamin Rivinius, Erika Geldsetzer, Martin Ostertag, Michel Dispa, Nicolas Chumachenco, Ulf Rodenhäuser