WORKS: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of JS Bach; Humoresken, Op. 20; Variations and Fugue on a Theme of GP Telemann
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66996
Few late-Romantic composers relished the opportunity of composing variations as much as Max Reger. His voluminous output contains three such pieces for orchestra on themes by Beethoven, Mozart and Hiller, innumerable variation movements within his chamber compositions, as well as these two fine sets for solo piano generously coupled on this release. Of the two works, the Bach Variations, composed in 1904, appear to be more typical of Reger in their richly chromatic harmony and introspective mood, while the later Telemann set, although conceived on the broadest scale, seems more playful and transparent in texture. Needless to say, such repertoire makes extraordinary demands on the performer, who not only requires sufficient stamina and technique to negotiate countless sequences of fast semiquavers and full-blooded chords, but must also have the intellectual capacity to bring line and logic to the lengthy and powerfully argued fugues which form the culmination of each work. In both these areas, Marc-André Hamelin proves to be a true master.
Technically, the playing seems beyond reproach, and even when the textures appear congested, Hamelin resists the obvious temptation to force the tone. The Five Humoresques provide a delightful contrast to such heavyweight material, Hamelin investing each of the miniatures with charm and bags of character.
It’s a pity that, perhaps for reasons of time, Hamelin could not observe the majority of marked repeats in the Telemann Variations, but all in all this is a marvellous disc.