Reger: Clarinet Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Reger
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Clarinet Sonatas: in A flat, Op. 49/1; in F sharp minor, Op. 49/2; in B flat, Op. 107
PERFORMER: Janet Hilton (clarinet), Jakob Fichert (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572173

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It was after hearing one of Brahms’s pair of late Clarinet Sonatas in 1900 that Max Reger resolved immediately to write two of his own. Their source of inspiration is evident in their handling of traditional forms, their balance of harmony and counterpoint, and above all their closely worked piano writing.

What Reger failed to match was Brahms’s compactness – and that’s even more the case in the Third Sonata of 1908/9. Its four movements here add up to well over the half-hour mark. Yet all three works are attractive examples of Reger’s serious-minded but warm-hearted late Romanticism, and their neglect is puzzling. 

The Sonatas sound at home here in a relatively intimate acoustic. Janet Hilton revels in the Art Nouveau tendrils of Reger’s melodic lines, and Jakob Fichert in the intricate cross-rhythms of his piano parts; and their teamwork is exemplary.

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Their tempos, however, are consistently on the leisurely side: Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer and Hans Eijsackers (Challenge Classics) and Anthony Pike and Martin Jones (Clarinet Classics) are both considerably more urgent without ever sounding hurried. But these affectionate performances are still highly recommendable. Anthony Burton