Il Furibondo, violinist Liana Mosca, violist Gianni de Rosa, and cellist Marcello Scandelli, are quite impressive. The musicians regularly perform in early music groups with period instruments.

In this recording, they show equal proficiency with modern instruments. In many ways, their dual skill sets make the trio uniquely suited to Reger’s music.

Max Reger considered his music a continuation of Brahms and Beethoven. His harmonies, though, pushed the boundaries of tonality further than his heroes did.

And, as an organist, he developed a deep love of Bach, and especially of his contrapuntal writing. The members of Il Furibondo have experience both with the music of Reger, and those of his inspirations.

The trio plays expressively, leaning into the rich emotional content these early 20th-Century works. Mics were placed quite close to the instruments. I could easily hear quick intakes of breaths, grunts and hums from the performers. But it didn’t detract from the sound. If I were hearing these works live, those sounds would be part of the performance. And that’s what they are here. To me, it simply meant that these artists were fully invested in the music they were playing, and that increased my own engagement with the works.

The two string trios show those influences but are not bound by them. There are passages that seem inspired by Beethoven’s quartets. And there are melodies that seem to use Brahms as their starting point. And there are plenty of instances where the three instruments weave together in Bach-like polyphony.

And yet at no time could the music be mistaken for any of those composers. Reger’s harmonic progressions are uniquely his own. His melodies bend and turn in distinctive ways. And the harmonies are simply too rich for contrapuntal sections to be mistaken for Bach.

Reger had the ability to write works of contemplative beauty. He certainly did in these two works. Eleven years separate the composition of his first string trio (1904) and his second (1915). And yet — to my years — they’re remarkably similar. And that’s not a bad thing. Both trios are skillfully crafted, and sound as rewarding to play as they are to listen to.

Max Reger: String Trios
Il Firubondo
Solo Musica SM323