Reger, Strauss

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COMPOSERS: Reger,Strauss
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 114; Burleske
PERFORMER: Barry Douglas (piano)Radio France PO/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68028 2
Despite the sterling efforts of Rudolf Serkin, Reger’s gargantuan neo-Brahmsian Piano Concerto failed to establish a place in the repertory – its highly chromatic musical language presumably deemed too indigestible for widespread appeal. But in recent years tastes have changed, and the current availability of two outstanding recordings from Gerhard Oppitz (on Koch Schwann) and Love Derwinger (on BIS) has done much to encourage a reappraisal. If anything, this new version is even more persuasive. Barry Douglas has all the fire and brimstone one could ask for in the tempestuous first movement, but he also captures the spiritual repose of the central Largo and the enforced jollity of the Rondo Finale to perfection. Janowski proves an adept partner inspiring the Radio France PO to deliver the equally important accompaniment with a clarity of texture and direction that one rarely encounters in other Reger performances. At the same time, there are moments where the more expansive approach adopted by Leif Segerstam on the BIS recording pays greater dividends.

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Couplings, however, tip the balance in favour of the new release. While Reger enthusiasts may well settle for Segerstam’s offering of the Suite in the Olden Style, Strauss’s dazzling Burleske, emanating from the same Brahmsian stable as the Reger Piano Concerto, is a much more attractive proposition, particularly when performed with such wit and brilliance as here. Erik Levi