Reger’s music is saying, “I am a killer pianist.” Like Alkan, it sounds thick and difficult. But unlike Alkan, it doesn’t sound heavy. There are a hundred different techniques and textures used, none of them easy. It’s just a high-density tour de force.
I think about Europe during the 19th century, and I wonder, didn’t people get tired of flashy? I certainly would. After a while, impressive isn’t impressive anymore. Did these people write anything slow and beautiful?
The etudes remind me of Chopin and Liszt combined. They sometimes have the technical consistency of a Chopin etude, but sometimes the tricks come in rapid succession like a Liszt. And the structures are more Liszt-like – more developmental, less sectional. The short pieces remind me of Schumann in their character, and a bit in their writing.
Beethoven variations are incredibly clever. The intro left me wondering what the heck theme he was going to use. I figured Eb. I wondered if he was going to use the Eroica theme again… hasn’t that already been pretty much exhausted by the composer himself? He’d probably avoid that if he knew what was good for him. He surprised me – I didn’t figure the slow movement from Op. 31 No. 3. There’s a lot of material in that theme. And I laughed when I noticed that for the first variation, he stole the bass line from that same sonata’s scherzo. Clever! The second variation could have been written by Schumann. And then an inverted theme! I’ve lost track of variations, but is that supposed to be a funeral march? Appropriate. The harmonies are eerie. And then the trills leading to a dissolving fugue! This should have been called variations on Everything Beethoven. Because it’s not just the theme, it’s every trick Beethoven ever used. Very clever.