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Variations and Fugue on a theme of Georg Philipp Telemann, Op 134

'Reger: Piano Music' (CDA66996)
Reger: Piano Music
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No 01. Theme: Tempo di Minuetto
No 02. Variation 1: L'istesso tempo
No 03. Variation 2: L'istesso tempo
No 04. Variation 3: L'istesso tempo. Scherzando
No 05. Variation 4: L'istesso tempo
No 06. Variation 5: Non troppo vivace
No 07. Variation 6: Non troppo vivace
No 08. Variation 7: Quasi tempo primo
No 09. Variation 8: Tempo primo
No 10. Variation 9: Non troppo vivace
No 11. Variation 10: Quasi adagio
No 12. Variation 11: Quasi adagio
No 13. Variation 12: Poco vivace
No 14. Variation 13: Tempo primo
No 15. Variation 14: Meno vivace
No 16. Variation 15: Andante
No 17. Variation 16: Adagio
No 18. Variation 17: Poco andante
No 19. Variation 18: Tempo primo
No 20. Variation 19: Poco vivace
No 21. Variation 20: Poco vivace
No 22. Variation 21: Poco vivace
No 23. Variation 22: Vivace
No 24. Variation 23: Poco andante. Molto adagio
No 25. Fugue: Vivace con spirito

Variations and Fugue on a theme of Georg Philipp Telemann, Op 134
By the time Reger came to write his Variations and Fugue on a theme of Georg Philipp Telemann in 1914, he had mastered the orchestra and gained more experience in variation form, principally with his orchestral ‘Hiller’ and ‘Mozart’ Variations. In fact, it might be said with some justification that the ‘Telemann’ Variations stand in relation to the ‘Bach’ Variations in the same way that the orchestral ‘Hillers’ relate to the ‘Mozarts’—the latter being generally more playful than the former. They are also considerably less chromatic than the ‘Bach’ Variations—lighter, purer, more transparent. There are also many more individual variations and a whole host of repeats.

The theme itself is taken from a Suite for two oboes and strings that Telemann composed around 1733 as part of his Tafelmusik. (Listeners who fancy ‘checking out’ the original are directed to the Suite, or Ouverture, that opens the Tafelmusik’s ‘Production III’. The Menuet is its seventh and final movement. The Suite has been recorded by The King’s Consort on Helios CDH55278.) Reger’s first statement of the theme immediately suggests parallels with Brahms, whereas the first four variations provide straightforward embellishments in a similar vein, whether regal (No 1), swirling (No 2), slipping (No 3, with staccato triplets) or dancing (No 4). The gigue-like fifth variation leads to octave triplets in No 6, Chopinesque cascades in No 7 and octave leaps in No 9.

Variation 10 (Quasi adagio) marks a dramatic easing of pulse; No 11 picks up the tempo a little, and No 12 fires gunshot chords that scatter flurries of repeated notes. The thirteenth variation is elegant and lightly brushed; No 14 tucks sustained trills in among its already dense textures, and with No 17 we move to the shaded glades of B flat minor before madcap arpeggios (No 18) signal a return to the home key (in No 19) and a warming Poco vivace (No 21).

The next two variations mark a return to pianistic athletics, but with No 23 we reach a majestic, richly harmonized chorale-style melody and a desolate bridge to the closing Fugue—more playful than Reger’s ‘Bach’ Fugue, and rather less complex, save for the expected broadening around the peroration. Beethoven comes to mind here, especially in the central section, which slows perceptibly only to build again—a ploy that Beethoven used at the centre of his Hammerklavier Sonata’s fugal finale.

from notes by Robert Cowan © 1999

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Details for CDA66996 track 44
No 23 Variation 22: Vivace
Recording date
1 April 1998
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Reger: Piano Music (CDA66996)
    Disc 1 Track 44
    Release date: January 1999
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