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Hyperion Records

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The Storm (1911) by August Macke (1887-1914)
Saarland Museum, Saarbrucken / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67762
Recording details: September 2009
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Andrew Mellor
Release date: November 2010
Total duration: 4 minutes 49 seconds

'This disc yields up … secrets too long hidden from the public consciousness. Hyperion deserves a large vote of thanks for bringing both to our attention … [Der Einsiedler] the shifting chromatic sands of this baritone solo, presented with delectable poise by Alexander Learmonth, and its intense accommpaniment, tackled with breathtaking sensitivity by pianist Christopher Glynn … the second secret here is the four-year-old choir, Consortium … their singing is sensitive and technically impressive. Andrew-John Smith draws from them an infinitely subtle dynamic range and some impeccably moulded phrasing which certainly serves Reger uncommonly well. One suspects this repertoire could have found no finer exponents to bring it to public attention' (Gramophone)

'Reger's choral music, like so much of his output, is too little known. So Consortium's new disc … is to be warmly welcomed … I found this disc most enjoyable … the recording is of Hyperion's customary excellence, with performances to match' (Choir & Organ)

'If there are still a few timid souls out there who fear Max Reger's music as dark forests of gnarled and knotty chromatic counterpoint, here's the CD to conquer their prejudices … these wistful, autumnal choral works caress the ear and the soul' (International Record Review)

'One of those recordings that immediately stops you in your tracks. The performances are fine indeed, but more than anything, it's the music itself that strikes you—it's both utterly unique and breathtakingly beautiful … [The Hermit] the voices slip and slide smoothly through unexpected keys, gently encouraged by a breakaway baritone soloist. It's luxurious, exotic, unusual and so very evocative … [Three Six-Part Songs] it's here that Reger's music starts to move from inherent yearning to palpable despair. To bring that off, you need a choir that isn't just technically accomplished but can also conjure intense drama, and Andrew-John Smith's group is perfectly suited to it. The voices blend well but are never overly polite; this is passionate rather than devotional, and you sense the fine gradations of the composer's emotional intensity … unmissable' (Classic FM Magazine)

'A wonderful disc this, and a testament to yet another undervalued dimension of the artistry of Max Reger. Very few of the common complaints about Reger's music apply here: the music is consistently inspired, often light, elegant and wholly free from the stodginess that blights so many of his organ works' (MusicWeb International)

Drei Sechsstimmige Chöre, Op 39
First line:
Nun um mich her die Schatten steigen
composer
1899; unaccompanied choir; No 1 dedicated to the Riedel-Verine, Leipzig, and Dr Georg Göhler; No 2 dedicated to the Philharmonischen Chor, Berlin, and Professor Siegfried Ochs; No 3 dedicated to the Kotzoltschen Gesangverein, Berlin, and Leo Zellner

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Der Einsiedler shares the key of A flat major with the outer two songs of the Op 39 Drei sechsstimmige Chöre, composed in 1899; the choice of E major for the central piece of that triptych thus makes for a surprising harmonic shift, though such unorthodoxy is not unusual for Reger. These unaccompanied works feature divided altos and basses: the concentration of harmonic interest in the lower voices produces a luxuriant, somewhat clotted effect heightened by the further subdivision of each bass part in the final song. The first song, to a text by Gustav Falke (1853–1916), invokes the attractions of ‘silence’, and Reger’s setting achieves a stillness appropriate to the subject. The striking harmony of the opening bars, in which a bass A flat pedal is maintained under chords in the upper voices that change successively from A flat to G flat major, to the unusual key of G flat minor, exemplifies Reger’s harmonic language in microcosm—no chord taken on its own is particularly noteworthy, but the effect of the rapid succession from one to another is disconcerting and idiosyncratic. The text of the central Abendlied is by the very minor German poet August H Plinke (1855–1910): in contrast to the largely syllabic setting of the first song, words such as ‘Leise’ and ‘Stille’ feature lengthy melismas aptly reflecting the lassitude of the text. The words of the final song are by the ‘unhappy but marvellous’ (Schumann’s description) Nikolaus Lenau (1802–1850): with archetypal Romanticism, the life of this Hungarian-Austrian poet, dominated by doomed passion for a married woman and gradual descent into madness, merged with his writing. Frühlingsblick had already been set by Mendelssohn and Siegfried Wagner, son of Richard; Reger’s setting conveys the sense that spring brings hope out of apparent torpor, with the words ‘All’ das frohe Lenzgeschick’ set to lively imitative entries contrasting with the predominantly slow tempos of the rest of the cycle.

from notes by Michael Downes © 2010

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