Reger: String Quartet in E flat, Op. 109; Clarinet Quintet in A, Op. 146

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LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: String Quartet in E flat, Op. 109; Clarinet Quintet in A, Op. 146
PERFORMER: Karl Leister (clarinet); Vogler Quartet
The problem with Reger is that his music has always been perceived as more cerebral than inspired, the work of a brilliant academic rather than a true genius. He deliberately avoided large-scale operatic and symphonic works in favour of chamber music and the two pieces here are among his finest achievements. The String Quartet written in 1909 is certainly considered the best of his works in this genre and the performance by the Vogler Quartet makes a most convincing case for its structure and balance. The Clarinet Quintet, composed in 1915 at the very end of Reger’s life, bears overt references to the two masterpieces of the form, the quintets by Mozart and Brahms, even to the extent of quoting from the latter. Reger’s choice of key and the use of variations for the finale clearly invites comparison with Mozart and, though the self-conscious contrapuntal writing has prevented it from earning the popularity of its distinguished predecessors, it is full of rich and expressive music. Karl Leister’s usual opulent sound suits this music perfectly and together with the superb Vogler Quartet provides appropriate refinement. Tim Payne