Reisenauer was born in Königsberg. He was a pupil of Louis Köhler and Franz Liszt. As one of the most important piano teachers and players of his time, Reisenauer became principal professor of piano at the Sondershausen Conservatory in 1885, and after beginning to teach piano at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1900, he was eventually appointed director of the same institution. His own students included Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Sergei Bortkiewicz, and Anatol von Roessel.
Reisenauer led a highly successful career as a pianist, especially in Germany and Russia, and was well known for his sensitive playing. On 10 April 1905, he recorded ten piano pieces for the Welte-Mignon player piano at the Welte Studio in Leipzig. Reisenauer also set numerous lieder to music. He became a strong alcoholic and drank heavy lots of champagne during his tours. He died at Libau in 1907 during a concert tour.
- Josephine Gräfin Schwerin: Erinnerungen an Alfred Reisenauer. Königsberg: Gräfe & Unzer, 1909
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