Reger: String Quartet in E flat, Op. 109; String Quartet in F sharp minor, Op. 121
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartet in E flat, Op. 109; String Quartet in F sharp minor, Op. 121
PERFORMER: Mannheim String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 336 0713-2
These two quartets, composed between 1909 and 1911, were Reger’s last. The second of the pair – ostensibly in F sharp minor, though it seldom alights on, or even near, that key – met with particularly fierce opposition from his contemporaries. ‘The dashed-off, the over-hasty, the muddled, and the unripe once more thrust their way into the foreground’ was a typical view. Curious, because of the two works it is this later one that is the more immediately appealing. Its melodic material is more generous and ingratiating, and it is scored throughout with consummate skill and delicacy. Its finale, it is true, outstays its welcome by a few minutes, but the work as a whole is a masterpiece, and one with a slow movement of quite exquisite warmth and tenderness.
The E flat major Quartet, Op. 109, has another deeply felt slow movement, and this time a brilliantly successful finale in the form of a dazzling fugue on a lightly ‘tripping’ subject. The Mannheim String Quartet doesn’t always capture the agitation of this music (their tempo for the slow movement of Op. 109 is surely too slow), but it conveys its ebb and flow with great imagination, and they make persuasive advocates for this sadly neglected repertoire. Misha Donat