Clarinet to the Max

9461_cover_rgb_largeMax Reger: Music for Clarinet and Piano. Alan R. Kay, clarinet; Jon Klibonoff, piano. Bridge Records 9461

Reger is a composer many people love to hate – the pieces are said to be too long, the harmony too wanderingly chromatic. (Not everybody; Rudolf Serkin was a fan.) But the two clarinet sonatas of Op. 49 are only about 20 minutes long each, and with a bit of patient listening, the harmonic labyrinths of this late romantic music become less forbidding. Along with Reger’s slightly longer sonata Op. 107, they deserve to be heard much more frequently as  alternatives to the Brahms sonatas on clarinet recitals. The three sonatas plus a couple of very brief character pieces make up this wonderfully performed disc, notable for the sheer beauty of sound achieved by both players.