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Roberto Marini’s epic task of recording the complete organ works of Reger on authentic instruments has now reached the eighth of a projected nine double CDs. When a magazine asked Reger what Bach meant to him, his explosive response was that Bach was ‘the beginning and end of all music’ – adding for good measure that Bach could act as a palliative for those grown sick on Wagner and as a cure for those afflicted by syphilis!

Having taken Bach as a stylistic model throughout his life as a composer, after 1895 Reger turned his attention to arranging some of Bach’s original keyboard compositions for organ. Featured here are the Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue BWV 903, a selection of preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Klavier, and an avowedly pedagogical project to rival Bach’s own Trio Sonatas: having failed to persuade his virtuoso performer-collaborator Karl Straube to cough up the materials to complement the exercises in a projected pedal technique tutor, Reger turned the Two-Part Inventions BWV 772-786 into a ‘Manual of Trio-Playing’. After another hiatus when Straube advised the intended publisher to reject the project, both changed their minds when Reger delivered his manuscript in which the upper and lower parts had been assigned to right hand and pedal, with a newly composed middle part for the lefthand. Straube’s penance was Reger’s insistence that the title-page should emphasise their joint authorship. Reger believed that trio-playing should form the cornerstone of virtuoso technique, and ‘the necessary means to awaken and strengthen that sense of polyphony which is the nerve-centre of true organ style’. Throughout Fugatto’s series, Roberto Marini has shown himself to be the perfect inheritor and communicator of Reger’s vision – a Straube for today.

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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