Reger: Lieder

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Frauke May (mezzo-soprano), Bernhard Renzikowski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 75076 2
Mezzo-soprano Frauke May is described as having ‘a special affection’ for the songs of Max Reger. That may surprise one or two readers. The once widely respected Reger is now largely unknown, except perhaps to the more adventurous kind of organist. I can’t remember ever having heard any of his 300-plus songs in Lieder recitals. Praise for Reger nowadays tends to be politely respectful rather than affectionate. But Frauke May plainly loves these songs. Her manner is warm, caressing – positively lavish in places. In songs like the atmospheric ‘Die Nixe’ (The Mermaid) it largely pays off, and she does her best to bring life to the Wolfian whimsy of ‘Der gute Rat’ (Good Advice). Recordings are excellent. Still, these songs are better sampled individually rather than in groups (refreshing contrast was rarely one of Reger’s strong points), still less a disc-full in one go. And Frauke May’s intonation isn’t always spot-on – the problem increases in the more chromatic songs. In the end Reger remains a puzzling figure: a fine craftsman, capable of warmth, appealing lyricism, even depth of feeling, but it’s moments that impress rather than whole songs; the essential musical mind remains elusive. Stephen Johnson