Duo d'Accord (Shao-Yin Huang from Taiwan and Sebastian Euler), prize-winners of the ARD Competition in 2000 and winners of the 1st prize at the internationally renowned piano duo competition “Muray Dranoff” in the USA, which they won “with absolute superiority” (Miami Herald), are here giving their CD debut with Max Reger.
An Interview with the Duo d'Accord
For your first CD, you have chosen works of Max Reger. As a young piano duo, what attracts you to this music?Sebastian Euler: We are fascinated by the enormous wealth of different facets in this music – and of course, the pianistic as well as musical challenges it presents. Reger’s music contains surges of exceptionally virtuosic passagework next to tender, sometimes very intimate sections. Despite his late Romantic harmonies, Reger uses strict classical forms – but coupled with a great deal of humor. Everything, however, is subservient to a higher idea. This idea is hidden in many notes, and it is very important to make it transparent. The most difficult thing for interpreters is to get the right sound. It must be alive, with no traces of artificiality. One needs a great deal of time to master this.
Reger has many sides. During his time, he was one antipode against the modern music of the time – which was considered by some to be in the process of disintegrating; others, however, considered him to be a representative of modern music. Does he have one foot in the past and one in the future as far as you are concerned?H: For me, Reger is one of the last Romantic composers, especially in regard to how his music breathes. He never thought himself to be part of the avant-garde, although his harmonic ideas did contribute to the breakdown of certain forms – even though Reger didn’t necessarily intend this. It’s similar to Richard Strauss. But you can’t really put Reger in a certain corner. He is unique, with all his strengths and weaknesses.
Do you see a connection between the three works Reger composed between 1901 and 1906?E: I don’t see a connection. There are basic traits, however, which always come up in Reger’s compositions, because above all, he was composing for himself as well as to meet his own absolute standards. He didn’t really care if people liked his pieces.
How does Reger express the bizarre in his very lively Burleskes?H: For us, the Burleskes – in addition to Schubert’s A Major Rondo – were our first four-hands project; our trial by fire, you might say, because pianistically, they are a real milestone. The really hard thing with these pieces is not losing their exaggerated humor when playing them – if you do, they sound extremely aggressive and hard. Each of the Burleskes has several elements which almost always interrupt each other. These elements themselves are often incomplete or disconnected as well – which is what contributes to the bizarre effect. After one of our concerts, a reviewer wrote about the “Freudian humor” in these pieces, which hits the nail on the head. And you have to get the right dosage of all the elements to unite all of these contrasts.
Reger’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven, op. 86 use musical material from Beethoven’s Bagatelle in B-flat Major, op. 119, no. 11. When you play the Reger, how much of the Beethoven do you still have in mind?H: After the theme, the Beethoven disappears fast. You see that, for example, in Reger’s immediate modulation from B-flat major into keys with sharps. Especially in the fast variations, Reger uses maybe only one or two motives from the Bagatelle as a basis. On the other hand, in the slow movements, the atmosphere of Beethoven’s long, legato phrasing is always in the foreground. Reger develops this into wonderful ‘sound-paintings’ which are highly imaginative as well.
You’ve emphasized the serious character of the Sechs Stücke, op. 94, which hardly anyone knows…H: The opus 94 pieces are not especially long, but much calmer than the Burleskes, although they are often subdivided into different sections – this time, however, with more logical transitions. It isn’t easy to keep up the line and the right kind of tension at this relatively slow pace through all six pieces without manipulating the tempos. The true genius of this work only unfolds when you are very strict with the pulse.
Will you continue working on Reger, or does this CD mark the end of a period for you?H: This recording is certainly an important milestone in our career. But we are very curious people, and there is a world of wonderful music for us to discover.
Dr. Meret Forster of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk interviewed the two pianists.
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler