Max Reger’s all too brief creative life saw not only the composition of a vast number of original works in many genres, but also a long list of arrangements and editions of other composers’ music. Like the even more prodigious Liszt he was always interested in promoting the work of others. This was particularly so during his directorship of the Meiningen Court Orchestra, which he took over in 1911, where he conducted works by, among others, Debussy, Grieg and Wolf. He arranged a large number of Bach’s organ and orchestral works for piano, both solo and duet, as well as many of the solo keyboard works for the organ. These include preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier
and several of the toccatas. It was only natural that he should be drawn to the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue
, where even the look of the music on the page reminds one of his own music. The process of expansion to the larger medium includes the addition of an elaborate dynamic scheme, giving us a tantalising glimpse of a performing tradition from a bygone age, and the addition of a chordal elaboration of the implied harmonies of Bach’s virtuoso keyboard figuration. The Fantasia, whose many different ideas grow organically out of each other, includes a highly elaborate instrumental recitative, a style undoubtedly learnt from the string concertos of Vivaldi with which Bach became acquainted during his Weimar years. The Fugue remains faithful to the texture of the original while reflecting the dynamic growth inherent in the music.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2001