Reger • Ysaÿe

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Reger; Ysaye
LABELS: Classico
WORKS: Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello; Suite No. 2 for Solo Cello; Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello; Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 28
PERFORMER: Harro Ruijsenaars (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CLASSCD 177 (distr. DI Music)

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Steeped as much in Bach’s visionary purity as Brahms’s Romantic conservatism, Max Reger’s labyrinthine Cello Suites remain a monument to uncomprehending neglect. Written in 1914, this triptych (once described by its composer as ‘an idiotic idea, but pedagogically of great value to me… and showing some kind of musical chastity’) has won the support (on disc at least) of several fine cellists, the latest being former Concertgebouw principal Harro Ruijsenaars. These are doggedly tenacious accounts of music that’s often formidably difficult to perform, and Ruijsenaars is particularly impressive in the A minor Third Suite. Tireless in the unrelenting intervallic procession of the Prelude, and dazzling in the variation finale, Ruijsenaars’s account certainly rivals (but doesn’t eclipse) Erling Bløndal Bengtsson’s astounding Danacord recording of 1992. Both cellists reveal greater insight and expressivity than Pieter Wispelwey (on Channel), and also present starkly opposing views of Ysaÿe’s Sonata, Op. 28. Bengtsson’s is the more eruptive and visceral reading, with Ruijsenaar’s more private and introspective approach seeming hardly less valid or original. But the muddier textures of Classico’s recording, made at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark (where Harro Ruijsenaars now teaches), is much less satisfactory than either Danacord’s for Bengtsson, the outright winner here, or Channel Classics’s glitzy sonics for Wispelwey.

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Michael Jameson