In songwriting terms, Reger remains a one-hit wonder: his Mariä Wiegenlied, but heaven help anyone seeking the rest of his vast Lieder output. Now Hyperion has come to the rescue, but even they supply a mere 33 of the nearly 300 songs which Reger left.
Repeatedly discernible in this selection dominated by miniatures is the composer’s tendency to resort to restless chromaticism in songs that begin as folk-like, almost drawing-room productions. No wonder recitalists have shied away. Far easier to master a song that stays in the same mood throughout, rather than switching within seconds from Schubertian quasi-naivety to Hugo-Wolf-style anguish.
Significantly, Reger preferred minor poets: no Goethe, Schiller or Heine here. Occasionally Reger uses a verse familiar from Strauss: Mackay’s Morgen!, which Reger makes almost indistinguishable from a Wagnerian dusk. But other Reger settings show him in a much better light and they deserve more frequent airings. This reviewer was particularly taken by the martial Zwischen zwei Nächten, the impressionistic Aeolsharfe (like Debussy to German words), and above all the deliberately antiquarian In einem Rosengärtelein.
Sophie Bevan has a big timbre which nevertheless encompasses considerable delicacy when needed. Malcolm Martineau is perfectly attuned to Reger’s unrelenting demands. Engineering and booklet annotations are first-class.