For the last several years I've been impressed with a recording of this repertoire made by super-virtuoso Marc-André Hamelin Reger: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of J. S. Bach. I've returned to it again and again, and have come to believe that these two large sets of variations are indeed masterworks. And I've assumed that no one could convey them as well as Hamelin.
When this CD came my way, I was not reluctant to listen to it exactly, but I would have to confess I was skeptical, thinking there was no way it could come up to the Hamelin recording.
But I was wrong. Kees Schul, a pianist of whom I'd only vaguely heard, has turned in two utterly convincing performances with every bit as much clarity of the sometimes clotted polyphony--a Reger hallmark--as Hamelin brings to it. Further, he manages to bring out the lightheartedness in, say, the 7th of the Telemann variations, in a way that actually surpasses that of Hamelin. He is also able to give appropriate weight and solemnity to such variations as the 9th of the Telemann set or 7th of the Bach. He plays the concluding fugue in each set quite spectacularly as well.
I'm very happy to have made Mr Schul's acquaintance and find I will now have to seek out others of his recordings. I see that he has recorded a Poulenc and a Richard Strauss song recital with Dutch soprano Suze van Grootel, on the Globe label Francis Poulenc: Lieder Recital, Strauss: Lieder Recital. I'd be inclined to suspect he is a sensitive accompanist.