WORKS: Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 91; Preludes and Fugues, Op. 131a
PERFORMER: Søren Elbaek (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 32300-01
It certainly takes a brave person to sit through 150 minutes worth of Reger’s unaccompanied violin music. But the experience need not be quite as daunting if the performer is sufficiently charismatic to steer one through some pretty taxing contrapuntal passagework. Inevitably, comparisons with Bach loom large, particularly when the Seventh and final Sonata culminates in a massive and challenging Chaconne. Yet despite Reger’s obvious emulation of his great predecessor, the music is not simply pastiche. Moreover, the limitations of timbre and emotional range, set both by the instrument and the genre, are turned here to positive effect – an advantage especially in a composer not normally recognised for his economy of means.
Given all these circumstances, I wish I could be more positive about the present release. Søren Elbaek, violinist in the much-admired Copenhagen Trio, definitely has the technique and stamina to cope with all the technical hurdles set by the composer. But the engineers haven’t helped his cause by providing him with a dry and rather muffled acoustic. Comparison with the outstanding German violinist Ulrike-Anima Mathé in the sonatas on Dorian is illuminating. Whereas Elbaek plays the notes accurately enough, Mathé really brings the music to life, providing bags of characterisation and a spontaneity in shaping the musical line that is compelling. Equally in the later Preludes and Fugues, Mateja Marinkovic (on ASV) is preferable, demonstrating much greater imagination and flexibility. Erik Levi