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Cello Sonata No 4 in A minor, Op 116
1910; dedicated to Julius Klengel

'Reger: Cello Sonatas' (CDA67581/2)
Reger: Cello Sonatas
Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Presto
Movement 3: Largo
Movement 4: Allegretto con grazia

Cello Sonata No 4 in A minor, Op 116
The Cello Sonata No 4 in A minor Op 116, was written in 1910 and is dedicated to a great cellist of the era, Julius Klengel (1859–1933), who was also an important composer for his instrument. Like the second and third sonatas it is in four movements, but unlike all three earlier sonatas it begins with the cello unaccompanied, giving out an eight-note figure that serves as a kind of ‘motto theme’. In its chromatic involution this establishes the soulful nature of the ensuing movement, despite its often very full textures. The highly chromatic nature of Reger’s idiom is apparent in the wandering character of the second subject (beginning with rich piano chords) and the more virile theme that ends the exposition, with its determinedly striding dotted rhythms. The piano takes over the motto theme for the start of the development and then immediately resumes with the dotted-rhythm theme. The centre of the development relaxes into thoughtful exchanges between cello and piano, but the dotted rhythms call to action once more. At the start of the recapitulation the piano begins the motto theme and the cello finishes it, engendering a strenuous and passionate recapitulation in which the various thematic elements are further heightened. The cello restates the motto in the coda, which fades out to an expressive close on a triad of A major.

Though written in a fast 3/4 time, the Presto scherzo creates the impression of a tarantella. This witty and agile movement is full of Reger’s humour in the twists and turns of the writing, the whimsical pizzicati and sudden contrasts of loud and soft. The trio is also gently humorous in the way the cello’s running pizzicati subvert the piano’s solemn chords. A tiny reminiscence of the trio comes just before the end of the scherzo’s shortened reprise. The slow movement is a warmly romantic E major Largo in which the two instruments are very much in concert to create an impression of melodic ecstasy; the model was surely a Brahmsian slow movement, such as that of the older master’s Piano Concerto No 2, but conceived now entirely in Reger’s own melodic and harmonic terms.

The concluding Allegretto con grazia is the most extensive of all Reger’s cello sonata finales, with a pawky dance-tune for main subject, treated somewhat in Baroque manner but with the full resources of modern harmony and counterpoint. The staccato piano-writing, often marked senza pedale, is perhaps intended to evoke (while not exactly imitating) a harpsichord, while the music itself modulates in directions no Baroque composer would have countenanced. Touches of imitation and fugato notwithstanding, this is basically a smilingly good-humoured movement that, after much vigorous capering, comes at last to a peaceful Quasi adagio close.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008

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Details for CDA67581/2 disc 2 track 9
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 9
    Release date: March 2008
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