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Cello Sonata No 3 in F major, Op 78
1904; published the same year

'Reger: Cello Sonatas' (CDA67581/2)
Reger: Cello Sonatas
Buy by post £20.00 CDA67581/2  2CDs  
Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Movement 2: Vivacissimo
Movement 3: Andante con variazioni
Movement 4: Allegro vivace

Cello Sonata No 3 in F major, Op 78
The Cello Sonata No 3 in F major Op 78 was composed and published in 1904. By any standards it is a major work, and it is clear from the outset of the vivacious first movement that Reger’s Brahmsian aspects have retreated into the background in the face of a complex and progressive stylistic advance. The piano’s excited thrumming in the initial bars turns into a persistent sextuplet figuration that is contrasted by both instruments with martial dotted rhythms while urgent melodic figures soar and plunge. This opening subject group unfolds almost on the wing, voluble and turbulent. The long-breathed tranquillo second subject brings much-needed contrast, but only for a moment: the two contrasted characters, hectic and tranquil, alternate and arrive at a third idea, marked by steady piano chords, which concludes what has in fact been a very brief exposition section. The development concerns itself principally with the first subject’s complex of ideas in highly virtuosic style, with molto agitato a characteristic marking as the music dashes from phrase to phrase; the second subject is quite distorted when it is eventually recalled. The thrumming sextuplets signal the onset of the recapitulation which, characteristically, continues and extends the process of development up to the final bars, where the tranquillo character of the second subject is finally allowed full and satisfying expression.

The scherzo, marked Vivacissimo, starts with a low repeated C pizzicato in the cello, and any suspicions that the movement might be inspired by the scherzo of Brahms’s F minor Piano Quintet are immediately confirmed by the piano’s sinister chromatic response and the staccato rhythmic writing thereafter. Though the cello plays muted throughout, this is a more capricious, roughly playful and perhaps grotesque movement than Brahms’s highly driven invention, however. It is also much shorter, arriving swiftly at a tenderly melodic trio (Meno mosso) played unmuted. The scherzo music is extended on its reappearance, the cello’s pizzicato tolling away sepulchrally in the final bars of what is a brilliant and unusual invention.

There follows a substantial Andante con variazioni: Reger was a master of variation-form, as his many sets of variations for piano or orchestra or organ, or the variation-finale of his Clarinet Quintet, readily attest. The intriguingly flexible, thirteen-bar theme starts out as a calm, almost hymn-like melody, the first half on the cello, the second on the piano. The six variations (most of them concluded by a rising fourth, pizzicato, on the cello) progressively shorten the note-values and elaborate upon the main melody’s simplicity, roving chromatically further afield and becoming more dance-like and effervescent. The delightful sense of give-and-take between the two instruments is a most attractive feature of this highly inventive movement. Variation 5 is the heart of the piece, an apparently slow variation beginning with antiphonal solo exchanges between the players and then recalling the hectic atmosphere of the first movement, after which Variation 6 is distinguished by the rippling, purling scalic passages of the piano part, which flow into a short coda briefly recalling the variation-theme’s opening.

The finale, marked Allegro vivace, brings emotional relaxation in the form of a cheerful rondo: an alternately ambling, capering, nostalgic, occasionally rather garrulous movement in a scherzo-like 6/8 time, driving at last to a decisive and good-humoured conclusion.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008

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Details for CDA67581/2 disc 2 track 1
Allegro con brio
Recording date
7 April 2007
Recording venue
Hannover Congress Centrum, Germany
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Reger: Cello Sonatas (CDA67581/2)
    Disc 2 Track 1
    Release date: March 2008
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