Reger: Bach & Telemann Variations - Mark Latimer

Max Reger's beautiful take on Bach & Telemann Variations is given new life by pianist Mark Latimer

Composer: Max Reger
Repertoire: Bach & Telemann Variations
Artist: Mark Latimer (piano)
Rating: 5/5
Label: Warner 2564 61718-2

This is a fabulous recording of beautiful music beautifully played. Pianist Mark Latimer performs two sets of variations by Max Reger (1873–1916) beginning with Op.81, on a long theme from Bach’s Cantata No.128, composed in 1904. Latimer states the melody with a smooth, clear, simple line – expressing unfussy veneration for the original. Reger isolates motifs like a 19th-century historian adoring, in dispassionately close-up depth and detail, an ancestral heritage. The 15 episodes proceed with increasing drama through the crashing passion of the Grave assai, the organ-power delivery of the Allegro molto, and the romanticised chromaticism of the Molto espressivo, until all seems exhausted and Latimer embarks on the great fugue finale with perfect balance, clarity, poise and throw-away reserves of energy.

He handles the stately gavotte theme of the Telemann Variations, Op.134, with a pleasing  lift and flutters through the divisions like a flirt at a ball. At first the dancing rhythm remains steady while the note-lengths halve, frenzying the feet. Latterly the movements stretch the pulse and contort the theme’s basic shape, relying on pianistic touch and dynamics for variety. I used to think of Reger primarily as an organ composer.  Not any more.