London Philharmonic Orchestra, Leon Botstein

Music of Max Reger: Reger & Romanticism

Max Reger (1873-1916) died young, from overwork. He was a master of counterpoint who combined the lush harmonies of post-Wagnerian music with canon, fugue and other contrapuntal devices of Bach to form a kind of hyper-Romantic-Baroque music. The result isn’t always enjoyable, but in these luminous works, we see a different Reger, who has discovered Claude Debussy and the avant-garde. A Romantic Suite After J.F. Eichendorff is mysterious, subtle and superbly scored. Also evocative are Four Tone Poems After Paintings of Arnold Bocklin. These are “Hermit Playing the Violin,” a kind of Germanic Vaughan Williams pastorale; “In the Play of the Waves,” in which mermaids frolic in la mer; “The Isle of the Dead,” pure gloom with a ray of hope; and “Bacchanal,” wild music that shoves the ears around!