WORKS: Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 1; Violin Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 84
PERFORMER: Ulf Wallin (violin), Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 452-2
Few composers can surely have written a more accomplished first opus than Reger. The first violin sonata, written at the age of seventeen, is remarkable for its masterly command of the medium, its memorable thematic ideas and its strong sense of purpose – a quality that is not always evident in the mature Reger. Of course the imposing figure of Brahms looms large over its inspiration, but nonetheless Reger’s own idiosyncratic stylistic fingerprints are already perceptible, particularly in the charming Scherzo, and in the broadly paced Adagio whose emotional gravitas recalls Beethoven’s Op. 96 Sonata. Ulf Walin and Roland Pöntinen deliver a highly committed performance fully substantiating the claim made by Reger’s teacher Hugo Riemann that the sonata is a work of genius.
After receiving such an accolade, it’s little wonder that Reger continued to demonstrate a special affection for the violin sonata, completing no less than eight further works for this combination. In the emotionally enigmatic Fifth, dating from 1905, the musical language is far more complex harmonically, and the structure is unusual in that a frisky scherzo forms a brief interlude between two lengthy movements, the latter of which is a fine set of variations culminating in an extended fugue. In lesser hands, music of such textural complexity could easily fall apart at the seams, but Walin and Pöntinen are resolute, presenting a totally lucid account of the work. Erik Levi