Reger: Träume am Kamin; In der Nacht; Improvisations, Op. 18; Humoresques, Op. 20

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COMPOSERS: Reger
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Träume am Kamin; In der Nacht; Improvisations, Op. 18; Humoresques, Op. 20
PERFORMER: Markus Pawlik (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553331
With his propensity for writing large-scale choral, orchestral and chamber works, it’s sometimes difficult to think of Reger as a natural miniaturist. Yet the composer’s voluminous output of piano works embraces not only extended sets of variations, but also some exquisite character pieces which deserve far wider currency. Three of his finest collections make up the bulk of this generously filled release, and provide an ideal introduction to his style.

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The early Improvisations demonstrate Reger’s capacity to absorb both the inward-looking Romanticism of Schumann and Brahms, as well as the extrovert technical bravura of Liszt, the latter element coming particularly to the fore in the barn-storming ‘Étude brilliante’. Although completed in the same year, the Humoresques are more characteristic in their abrupt modulations and satirical turns of phrase. This playfulness returns fitfully in the late Träume am Kamin (Fireside Dreams), but the overriding mood of these nocturnal visions is one of world-weariness and longing for the innocence of childhood.

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Evidently the considerable technical demands of Reger’s writing hold no terrors for prize-winning German pianist Markus Pawlik who proves to be equally sensitive in the more reflective pieces. But Pawlik’s efforts are not enhanced by a recording which sounds unduly harsh in louder passages, and direct comparison with Marc-André Hamelin’s recording of the Humoresques (on Hyperion) reveals the Canadian to be far more adept in projecting the whimsical nature of Reger’s argument. Erik Levi