lesser known works : reger cello suites

Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G major : III : Fuga, Allegro

Erling Blondal Bengtsson (cello)

So, one of the things I’d like to do this year is bring attention to lesser known/performed cello works. There are things everyone knows in the cello repertoire…but these are just the tip of the iceberg for the amazing things that are really out there. So many good works never get heard often because they are not publicly popular. Hopefully you find some works in here you have never heard before and fall in love with like I have…or just find fascinating.

In the cello world, Max Reger is perhaps best known for his 4 cello sonatas…but I personally love his much neglected cello suites. They are incredibly retrospective…and the first suite especially will remind you of Bach’s cello suites…except with some more modern tonality to it. Written in 1915, there are 3 suites (G, D minor and A minor) of 3 movements a piece (except the D minor, which has 4). They all begin with wandering preludes and then move through a variety of dance movements. The two biggest breaks from this format are the finale of the first suite (a multi-voice fugue) and the finale of the third suite (a nearly 10 minute theme and set of variations).

I would share both of these in this post but I only have room for one song…so I’m going with the multi-voice fugue from Suite one…since its nearly impossible to dislike. its amazing how it sounds like there is two separate cellists playing the fugue. However, I highly suggest the theme and variations movement…the A major variation episode is quite a treat…even if it is a nightmare to tune properly.

I also highly endorse this recording of the suites performed by Erling Blondal Bengtsson for dana cord (which you can also find on Naxos, for you University students who have access). They are straight forward and feel closer to a Bach suite in mood and articulation than other recordings…plus he has an excellent recording of the Ysaÿe sonata on the disc as well. A pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. For another take on the suites, Peter Wispelwey has a recording of the suites as well…much more romanticized and contrast filled. Both are good…but I prefer Bengtsson’s more.

If they are new to you…I hope you listen to the full suites and fall in love. If you already know them, I hope they bring a smile to your face and you listen to them again. Enjoy!

Get the recordings mentioned in this post: