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Reger: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Bach, Op.81 (Schiff)

Reger’s Op.81 Variations on Bach’s Cantata No.128, Auf Christi Himmelfahrt Allein, are a remarkable combination of rigour and variety. The counterpoint is bedazzling, the harmony feels both titanic and open-ended (beguiling, even), and the range of textures deployed is pretty extraordinary. In this huge jungle it’s very easy for the calm, almost diminutive theme to get lost, but Schiff is extremely good at keeping it aurally foregrounded. You get the sense that it’s a very small rudder guiding a very big ship: the ship wants to go its own way, dragged by the undertow of its own contrapuntal logic, and the theme has to work hard to make it go where it has to. In any case, this is a wonderful (live) performance. The dense textures are parsed to perfection (the slower-than usual tempi help, and I don’t mind them), the climaxes carefully prepared, and the sense of menace and playfulness in Vars.5, 8, 10, and 13 is perfectly captured.



  1. 00:00 – Theme, Andante
    01:58 – Variation 1, L'istesso tempo
    03:43 – Variation 2, Sempre espressivo ed assai legato
    05:13 – Variation 3, Grave assai
    08:43 – Variation 4, Vivace
    09:52 – Variation 5, Vivace
    11:26 – Variation 6, Allegro moderato
    13:00 – Variation 7, Adagio
    15:00 – Variation 8, Vivace
    16:13 – Variation 9, Grave e sempre molto espressivo
    18:54 – Variation 10, Poco vivace
    19:54 – Variation 11, Allegro agiato
    20:58 – Variation 12, Andante sostenuto
    23:18 – Variation 13, Vivace
    24:07 – Variation 14, Con moto
    25:52 – Fugue

  2. mit allem Respekt vor einem so grossen Interpreten, aber dieses Werk braucht etwas mehr romantische Agogik und etwas mehr polyphonen Klang. Viele wichtige harmonische Töne klingen nicht lang genug. Liegt aber vielleicht am Bösendorfer…


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