Max Reger Choral Works
No question as to the main work here. Reger’s setting of Psalm 100 (1908-10) takes four interconnected movements to set 14 lines of text, and yet the result is something of a musical triumph. The actual form of the piece suggests a symphony-cantata, with a jubilant opening followed by a mystical Andante sostenuto, a grazioso third movement and a finale in which the chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott breaks through a heady barrage of counterpoint. On the occasion of the work’s premiere (at a pre-Christmas concert organized by the Heidelberg Bach Society), Reger conducted two performances – sure proof of audience approval. The other works aren’t quite so imposing, although Die Weihe der Nacht (“The Consecration of the Night”, 1911) – which is often fairly reminiscent of Brahms – suggests a generous measure of spiritual exultation. Weihegesang (“Song of Consecration”, 1908), on the other hand, found my attention wandering – even though it is by far the shortest work on the disc (10'38''). Otto Liebmann’s poem about a festive occasion prompted a relatively straightforward setting for contralto, mixed choir and wind orchestra that builds towards a climax celebrating all that is “noble, true and beautiful” – though if I were pressed to bring those worthy images to mind, this is hardly the music I’d choose to accompany them.
Horst Stein directs competent performances of the two ‘consecration’ pieces, both of which are fairly well sung. The Psalm inspires something rather better, although the chorus are hardly top of the league and some of the orchestral playing sounds a mite undernourished. If Reger’s time is to come (which it surely will), we’ll need a healthy roster of newly won Regerians, true believers willing to take interpretative risks for the sake of inspired music-making. Stein tends to play safe, and with a composer who is already mislabelled as an arch-conservative, that’s no advantage. The recordings are more than adequate and Ekkehart Kroher’s annotations are highly informative.'