When Max Reger threatened to get caught between the hardened fronts of the Brahmsians and Wagnerians, he self-assertively termed himself a “Selfian.” Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Reger’s death, the prizewinning OPUS VOCALE chamber choir considers his compositions along with works by his contemporaries Brahms, Bruckner, and Schönberg and explores surprising interconnections between them while showing the masterful chromaticist in an entirely new light.
The program ranges from Advent and Christmas through the Lenten and Easter seasons to the end of the church year and its memorial days. Protestant church hymns and parts of the Catholic mass are brought together in the spirit of ecumenism. Reger would have liked this combination: raised as a Catholic, he repeatedly displayed his fascination with the personal piety of Lutheran hymns, and his correction of the proof pages of the “Eight Sacred Songs” occupied him even on his deathbed.
Like Reger, Bruckner was a gifted organist. And, like no other composer, he transferred the principles of the organ to other instruments, created mighty, multilayered sound structures, and thus became – something not understood during his lifetime – a trailblazer of modernity. For his part, Schönberg, crossed over the harmonic borders on which Reger, who was about his age, had worked away throughout his life. Both took the tradition of virtuosic motivic elaboration extending from Bach by way of Beethoven to Brahms to new, previously unreached heights.
Volker Hedtfeld relies on superbly educated female and male vocalists from his OPUS VOCALE chamber choir for this demanding project, and from Brahms’s “Fest- und Gedenksprüche” to Schönberg’s “Peace on Earth” the young ensemble displays its flexibility, majestic sound, and versatility from its most convincing side – a choral lesson and sheer listening pleasure!