Reviewed on Thu 01 Sep, 2016
Reger ploughs a rich vein of post-Brahmsian adventurous chromaticism that proves more effective in setting some texts – 'Waldeinsamkeit' or 'Wenn die Linde blüht', for example – but far less so in others.
Max Reger deserves better than his reputation as dour composer of organ music often affords him. Should you doubt this, then I suggest his large song output should demand your attention. Alas, Hyperion’s recording frustratingly showcases both Reger and the 33 selected songs with uneven results. Reger ploughs a rich vein of post-Brahmsian adventurous chromaticism that proves more effective in setting some texts – 'Waldeinsamkeit' or 'Wenn die Linde blüht', for example – but far less so in others. Richard Dehmel intended his poem Wiegenlied to be a gentle lullaby: Richard Strauss’s setting delivers on that but Reger’s is cacophonous. 'Morgen!' is more successful in Reger’s hands. Sophie Bevan, too, proves a mixed asset. Some songs lie easily within her vocal range: 'Wenn die Linde blüht' and 'Mariä Wiegenlied' are respectively character-filled and touching. There’s beauty in her lower range too, as 'Äolsharfe' demonstrates. Elsewhere, Bevan doesn’t fully meet Reger’s challenge, be it in the vocal leaps demanded by both 'Zwischen zwei Nächten' and 'Träume, träume, du mein süßes Leben!', or the blandness of her delivery in 'Glückes genug'. The undoubted strengths are Malcolm Martineau’s minutely attentive pianism, the excellent sound quality and Susan Youens’s booklet notes. Texts and translations included.