Reger: Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 133; Three Duos, Op. 131b

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LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 133; Three Duos, Op. 131b
PERFORMER: Claudius Tanski (piano)Mannheim String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 336 0714-2
On superficial acquaintance, Reger’s A minor Piano Quartet seems a much less emotionally charged work than the earlier Sturm und Drang D minor Quartet which these performers recorded so memorably two years ago. Yet this impression is somewhat illusory, for there is no lack of passion, particularly in the opening Allegro, while in the sublime chorale that underpins the Largo, Reger enters a world of spiritual contemplation that invites, and justifies comparison with Beethoven’s late quartets. The will-o’-the-wisp scherzo provides a perfect foil for these substantial movements, its light and airy textures recalling the atmospheric ‘Play of the Waves’ movement from the Böcklin Suite.


Once again Tanski and the Mannheim Quartet demonstrate an innate understanding of Reger’s style, providing a sure sense of structural direction especially in the mesmeric fluctuations of tempo and dynamics in the first movement, and managing to illuminate textures that in lesser hands would almost certainly sound impossibly cluttered. The scherzo sounds particularly sparkling, its middle section achieving a much more eerie impression for being taken at a far slower tempo than Reger’s prescribed metronome mark.


After the Quartet, the self-conscious Baroquerie of the Three Duos may appear small beer. But the violinists of the Mannheim Quartet project the music with such infectious enthusiasm that one quickly forgets that these works were composed primarily for teaching purposes. Erik Levi