LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Clarinet Quintets
PERFORMER: Pierre Woudenberg (clarinet)Schoenberg Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1150-2
There’s surely no better introduction to Reger’s astonishingly voluminous output of chamber music than his Clarinet Quintet. The work was composed only months before the composer’s premature death at the age of 43, and it’s tempting to view its overriding mellow and lyrical qualities as signifying some kind of conscious act of withdrawal from the outside world. Woudenberg and the Schoenberg Quartet, however, don’t subscribe to this particular interpretation, and are at pains to maintain a sense of forward momentum even in those passages which demand more repose. Fortunately, Reger’s highly expressive musical language can survive a slightly matter-of-fact approach far better than the Brahms, which despite some impressive movements, suffers from an unduly hasty tempo for the opening movement and some garbled articulation in the will-o’-the-wisp central section of the Andantino.
In most respects the Mannheim String Quartet and the excellent pianist Claudius Tanski are far better attuned to Reger’s idiom than their Dutch colleagues. But they have a much harder task in convincing sceptics that the 47-minute D minor Piano Quartet is a work of genius. There are particular problems in its expansive first movement, where the almost constant waves of thick-textured and restlessly chromatic writing can easily sound as if Reger was simply trying to effect an inebriated imitation of Brahms’s musical idiom. Yet such is the passion and conviction of the playing that any vestiges of musical indigestion are triumphantly swept aside. Erik Levi