Despite the fact that Max Reger was a prolific composer of songs—he wrote well over 250 of them—discs solely devoted to them are few and far between. This is the third that I own dedicated to his output. The others comprise the one by the tenor Andreas Weller, which forms volume four of Carus’ excellent edition of Reger’s vocal music (83.195), and the wonderful Iris Vermillion on CPO (999 317-2). CPO have also recorded the composer’s orchestrations of Schubert songs with Camilla Nylund and Klaus Mertens (999 510-2). All of these discs offer an insight into this significant and often neglected aspect of Reger’s music. As you can imagine, there is some duplication between the discs, surprisingly more between Weller’s disc than Vermillion’s, but then in a lot of cases Reger does not specify the voice to use in the songs. I must admit that on a couple of occasions I find Weller’s voice suits the music better than Bevan’s, but then there are also occasions when I find her beautiful soprano voice lifts the song more than the tenor voice.
As mentioned, Reger composed well over 250 songs with Vermillion offering a greater range, with songs from his Op 4 from 1891 through to a piano version of his first orchestral song, the impressive Op 124 An die Hoffnung of 1912. However, Sophie Bevan has chosen a programme that displays Reger’s stylistic differences. These range from the simplicity of his Volkslied, Op 37, No 2 and the 60 Simple Songs Op 76, with number 28, Die Mutter Spricht, deliciously quoting Mendelssohn, to his more complex examples. There are many of the latter to enjoy here, such as the final song on this disc, the beautifully lilting Ehre Sei Gott in Der Höhe! of 1905. On listening to this disc you are left with a question, more so than with my other Reger song discs, and that is why have I never heard any of these wonderful songs in recital. I have enjoyed many a concert of live lieder, but never any Reger, perhaps his reputation for complex counterpoint puts people off. Well it shouldn’t, as these songs offer a more personal and considered view.
Bevan proves that she is a wonderful interpreter of this music with the excellent Malcolm Martineau once again showing what a thoughtful and considerate accompanist he is. This is a true and wonderful partnership. In their hands the music of Reger is safe and this excellent recording should win new converts to his cause. It is the finest disc of his songs so far. The recorded sound is clear and detailed, with the detailed notes by Susan Youens and sung texts, both in English and German, only serving to heighten the enjoyment.