The Johannes Klais organ proves itself once again ideally suited to this repertoire, with Martin Welzel ably demonstrating the huge dynamic range and expressive potential of this instrument. Using Reger’s musical exploration as a medium for such an exercise I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of the music on this disc. I admit to being more of a French organ listener and less of a fan of the sequential, chromatic build-ups which Reger often employs, but this recording will sit well next to my Widors, Francks and Viernes, and is unreservedly recommended.
(Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International, Januar 2006)
Krönung seiner hörenswerten CD sind Introduktion, Variationen und Fuge op. 73, vielleicht Regers wichtigster Beitrag zur Orgelliteratur. Welzel verfügt an der Klais-Orgel im Trierer Dom über einen virtuosen, ja stürmischen Zugriff ebenso wie über viel Gelassenheit, dort, wo sie angebracht ist. Nicht nur in op. 73, auch in den sechs Trios op. 47 atmet die Musik unter Welzels Händen wunderbar frei.
(Michael Gassmann, Fono Forum, August 2006)
La interpretación de esta magistral y dificilisima música por parte del organista Martín Welzel funciona a la perfección. Resulta bastante complicado grabar esta música de textura tan densa y que resulte todo claro y díafano para el oyente. Pues bien, Welzel lo consigue, y no sólo esto, además emociona en los pasajes más poéticos de la partitura y abruma en los momentos grandiosos en los que el órgano suena a todo pulmón.
(Ignasi Jordá, Ritmo, September 2008)
Die Klais-Orgel im Trierer Dom, ebenso jung wie die Passauerin, klingt auch brilliant, aber eleganter und wendiger. Zwar ist auch sie kein romantisches Instrument, doch beweist Martin Welzel in den Folgen 6 und 8 im Umgang mit ihren Klängen seinen Sinn für sinfonisches Format und Zusammenhang großer Werke wie der Fantasien über "Ein feste Burg" und "Alle Menschen müssen sterben". Respekt nötigt seine Interpretation der Variationen fis-Moll op. 73 ab: Das schwierige Großwerk erklingt in seltener klanglicher und agogischer Geschlossenheit, der Spannungsbogen bricht niemals ein.
(Friedrich Sprondel, Fono Forum, September 2008)
Welzel uses all his artistry and knowledge of the instrument to create perfect miniatures by the judicious and intelligent choice of the registration employed for each work [...] This is a well planned and very interesting recital of little known, if known at all to the general public, music for organ by one of the most prolific and profound composers who ever wrote for the instrument. Welzel plays very well indeed. As already noted his choice of registration has been intelligently thought out and his performances are perfect for the music. Naxos’s sound captures the acoustic of the Trier Cathedral perfectly; there is a full five and a half second reverberation at the end of the Introduction and Passacaglia - a wonderful sound. Naxos is doing us a real favour by recording the organ music of Reger for it is music which cannot, and should not, be ignored.
(Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International, April 2009)
The instrument for this volume is the 1974 Klais organ at Trier Cathedral [...] This instrument has the intense ferocity of German romantic organs, but with more brilliance and clarity than most 19th-Century instruments [...] Martin Welzel's performances here are authoritative and coherent.
(William Gatens, American Record Guide, September/Oktober 2008)
The first thing you're likely to notice when you listen to this Volume 10 in Naxos' traversal of the organ works of Max Reger is how agreeable is the sound of this instrument, how well designed and compatible the array of stops - and of course how masterfully organist Martin Welzel employs them in the varied selections performed in this thoughtfully programmed recital. A look at the specifications of the Johannes Klais organ at Trier Cathedral, which Welzel plays here (built in 1974), shows it to be a kind of 4-manual cousin to the 3-manual cathedral organ at Wesel (built by Wilhelm Sauer), which was the instrument on which Karl Straube famously promoted Reger's works in the latter years of the 19th century. The numerous color stops, the string-type flues, and the finely-voiced reeds, such as the Schalmey, give this instrument a character that's ideal for exploiting Reger's often highly chromatic, intricately textured works. (Johannes Klais is one of the most respected and revered organ building firms in Germany - a family operation founded in the 19th century that today builds organs all over the world.)
Yes, Reger is touted as "the greatest German composer of organ music since Bach", and that is certainly arguable, but stylistically, he also didn't progress very far from the great master, which I suppose is not such a bad thing for Bach fans looking for a formidable and trustworthy disciple. While the chorale preludes are very satisfying tributes to Bach's definitive creations, the two preludes and fugues are significant, original repertoire pieces in their own right, as is the fantasia on "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" that closes the program. Welzel is fabulous, his commanding key- and pedal-board presence, his facile legato, and confident, clear articulation reminding us of why we are always so awed by the skills of this unique breed of instrumentalist.
And speaking of awe, for those who care about such things, the site of this recording, Trier Cathedral, is of great historical significance, as is the town of Trier. Both the cathedral, which dates back to the time of Constantine, and the town itself are the oldest in Germany, the town dating to before the time of Christ. Trier was one of the important seats of Roman church and state power and influence in the Middle Ages, playing a role in the intrigue and monumental struggles in the early Christian church during the 4th century. This is the sort of recording that encourages you to look into such things - but even at its most basic level it lifts your spirit while urging you to turn up the volume and simply revel in Reger's music.
(David Vernier, Classics Today.com, Oktober 2010)
Contrasting preludes, fugues and fantasias on a characterful instrument
Reger's monumentally demanding series of chorale fantasias is surely the towering crown of late-Romantic German organ music. With their writhingly post-Brahmsian labyrinths of counterpoint, bursts of Teutonic bombast and exhausting extremes of dynamic and tempo, these robust examples of "absolute" music require a calming antidote, which is why the 52 Easy Chorale Preludes, Op 67, make such a welcome contrast. While not all of the 14 Preludes recorded here are top-drawer Reger, his assured workmanship produces several inspired treatments, for example in the sinewy solidity of No. 49, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, and the sparkling elaboration of No. 44, Was Gott tut.
The two Preludes and Fugues are well contrasted. That in G-sharp minor is especially beguiling, the Prelude's opening searching and tentative, its Fugue built on an equally enigmatic subject. Martin Welzel keeps everything moving along smoothly in the E minor Prelude and Fugue, too. Trier Cathedral's Klais organ copes magnificently with the wide range of tonal colours and quick changes demanded by this most fastidious of composers. This is an instrument of great character: firm diapason foundations, fragrant flutes, piquant mixtures and acidic string ranks.
The concluding Chorale Fantasia on "Freu dich sehr" bursts in with a confident flourish before we are treated to an exhaustive exploration of the chorale melody in a series of variations. Welzel's performances of this (and everything else on the disc) are persuasive, sensitive and winsome. The Trier acoustic is beautifully captured and the supporting documentation everything one could wish for.
(Malcolm Riley, Gramophone, Januar 2011)
This is Volume 10 of the organ works of Max Reger in the Organ Encyclopedia series from Naxos […] Martin Welzel, who plays here, has recorded two previous volumes: 6 (557338) and 8 (570455). I reviewed Volume 8 (Sept/Oct 2008) and was highly impressed with the coherence and assurance of the playing. The present volume is a worthy successor.
The program combines some of Reger’s technically daunting free compositions and a large-scale chorale fantasia (dedicated to Karl Straube) with numbers 39 to 52 of his 52 Easy Chorale Preludes on the Most Common Protestant Chorales, Opus 67 (1902-03). These chorale preludes were presumably intended to be accessible to amateur organists, though some of the pieces do not sound so easy. These are brief pieces, but more extended than most of the 30 Little Chorale Preludes, Opus 135a (1914) in Volume 8.
Once again, the instrument is the four-manual Klais organ (1974) at Trier Cathedral. Its design does not seek to replicate any particular historical style of building but rather to furnish a modern instrument that is adaptable to a wide range of repertory. It has the ferocity of German romantic organs but more brilliance and clarity than most 19th Century instruments. This clarity keeps Reger’s textures, often formidably thick and chromatic, from sounding jumbled in the building’s rich reverberation. That reverberation is heard to good effect in the present recording in the slow decay of triumphant final chords, and especially in the way the fugue subject of Opus 85:4 emerges seamlessly from the fading of the prelude’s final chord […] Readers who have been collecting this series will not be disappointed with the latest installment.
(William Gatens, American Record Guide, Januar/Februar 2011)
El organista alemán Martin Welzel, a quien Naxos le ha dado la oportunidad de grabar esta integral de la música para órgano de Max Reger, nos ofrece en esta ocasión, ya la décima entrega, una excelente interpretación de algunas de las piezas fundamentales en la producción del autor bávaro, como los Preludios y Fugas en Mi menor, la megalitica Fantasía Coral sobre "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" o los catorce últimos Preludios Corales fáciles escritos entre 1902 y 1903. A pesar de tratarse de un autor católico, Reger tómo de la tradición luterana el uso del coral como elemento fundamental e inspirador de gran parte de sus preludios, fantasías y otros formatos musicales presentes en su producción organística.Una vez más, Welzel demuestra por qué Reger está considerato como el mejor compositor alemán para órgano desde J. S. Bach, en una interpretación impecable de las obras escritas en el periodo de 1900 a 1910, al fina de la corta vida de este autor, utilizando todas las posibilidades del excelente instrumento de la catedral de Trier y consiguiendo que el oyente comprenda una música dura y difícil de digerir pero que rezuma maestría e intelectualidad por los cuatro costados.
(Ignasi Jordá, Ritmo, März 2011)