Reger: Piano Concerto in F Minor; Strauss: Burleske – review

Hamelin/Berlin RSO/Volkov

Volume 53 of Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series contains two post-Romantic works linked by demands for exceptional virtuosity, but poles apart in mood. Reger's Concerto in F Minor (1910) is a gaunt, tragic statement that shoulders the immeasurable weight of tradition in its recollections of Brahms, Liszt, Wagner and, above all, Bach, Reger's great hero. The Burleske (1886), in contrast, is Strauss's first comedy – a flippant, parodic piece that peers forward to the postmodern ironies of Till Eulenspiegel and beyond. Hearing them together produces a few surprises. Reger is usually castigated for prolixity, though the Concerto doesn't seem to contain a wasted note, and it's the Burleske that comes over as diffuse and occasionally repetitive. Reger's fierce chromatic counterpoint, ratcheting up the anguish, now strikes us as far more disquieting than Strauss's spiky harmonies, which were deemed ultra-modern in his day. Both performances are formidable. Marc-André Hamelin does powerhouse things with the Reger, and is notably harrowing in the great central largo. The skittish charm with which he plays the Burleske, meanwhile, belies its often atrocious difficulty. Ilan Volkov and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra are first rate


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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