Reger: Preludes and Fugues for Solo Violin, Opp. 117 & 131a

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COMPOSERS: Reger
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Preludes and Fugues for Solo Violin, Opp. 117 & 131a
PERFORMER: Mateja Marinkovi´c (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 876 DDD
Of all the responses to the challenges of Wagner’s music, Reger’s can seem the most obstinate. Looking back to JS Bach, he immersed himself in Baroque theories of counterpoint, the intellectual austerity of which seemed to provide ballast in the uncertain seas of atonality, and, almost paradoxically, to justify his own experiments in chromaticism.

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Reger’s fugal writings for stringed instruments are less famous than his organ works, possibly because of the limits imposed by a narrower range and the consequent densely woven textures of double-stopping – Reger was far less willing than was Bach to imply, rather than spell out, a voice or countersubject. Moreover, his preference for minor keys gives rise to a certain uniformity of feeling.

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Marinkovi´c tackles the unforgiving technical demands of these pieces with flair, and invests great expressiveness. For all his sympathy with Reger’s enterprise, it is hard not to feel that these pieces – compared with Shostakovich’s later use of the form for the piano, for example – are little more than anachronistic curiosities. William Humphreys-Jones