Max Reger

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Max Reger
Max Reger playing piano.jpg
Reger, c. 1910
Born Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger
(1873-03-19)19 March 1873
Brand, Bavaria
Died 11 May 1916(1916-05-11) (aged 43)
Leipzig
Education
Occupation
  • Concert pianist
  • Conductor
  • Composer
  • Academic teacher
Organization
Works List of compositions
Spouse(s) Elsa Reger

Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger (19 March 1873 – 11 May 1916), commonly known as Max Reger, was a German composer, pianist, organist, conductor, and academic teacher. He worked as a concert pianist, as a musical director at the Leipzig University Church, as a professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, and as a music director at the court of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen.

Reger composed first mainly Lieder, chamber music, choral music and works for piano and organ. He later turned to orchestral compositions, such as the popular Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, and to works for choir and orchestra such as Gesang der Verklärten (1903), Der 100. Psalm (1909), Der Einsiedler and the Hebbel Requiem (both 1915).

Career[edit]

Born in Brand, Bavaria, Reger studied music theory in Sondershausen, then piano and theory in Wiesbaden.[1] The first compositions to which he assigned opus numbers were chamber music and Lieder. A concert pianist himself, he composed works for both piano and organ.[1] His first work for choir and piano to which he assigned an opus number was Drei Chöre.

Reger returned to his parental home in 1898, where he composed his first work for choir and orchestra, Hymne an den Gesang (Hymn to singing), Op. 21. From 1899, he courted Elsa von Bercken who first rejected him.[2] He composed many songs such as Sechs Lieder, Op. 35, on love poems by five authors.[3] Reger moved to Munich in September 1901, where he obtained concert offers and where his rapid rise to fame began. During his first Munich season, Reger appeared in ten concerts as an organist, chamber pianist and accompanist. Income from publishers, concerts and private teaching enabled him to marry in 1902. Because his wife Elsa was a divorced Protestant, he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He continued to compose without interruption, for example Gesang der Verklärten, Op. 71.[1]

In 1907, Reger was appointed musical director at the Leipzig University Church, a position he held until 1908, and professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig.[1][4] In 1908 he began to compose Der 100. Psalm (The 100th Psalm), Op. 106, a setting of Psalm 100 for mixed choir and orchestra, for the 350th anniversary of Jena University. Part I was premiered on 31 July that year. Reger completed the composition in 1909, premiered in 1910 simultaneously in both Chemnitz and Breslau.[5]

The composer at work, painting by Franz Nölken, 1913

In 1911 Reger was appointed Hofkapellmeister (music director) at the court of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen, responsible also for music at the Meiningen Court Theatre. He retained his master class at the Leipzig conservatory.[1] In 1913 he composed four tone poems on paintings by Arnold Böcklin (Vier Tongedichte nach Arnold Böcklin), including Die Toteninsel (Isle of the Dead), as his Op. 128. He gave up the court position in 1914 for health reasons. In response to World War I, he thought in 1914 already to compose a choral work to commemorate the fallen of the war. He began to set the Latin Requiem but abandoned the work as a fragment.[1] He composed eight motets forming Acht geistliche Gesänge für gemischten Chor (Eight Sacred Songs), Op. 138, as a master of "new simplicity".[6] In 1915 he moved to Jena, commuting once a week to teach in Leipzig. He composed in Jena the Hebbel Requiem for soloist, choir and orchestra.[1] Reger died of a heart attack while staying at a hotel in Leipzig on 11 May 1916.[1][4] The proofs of Acht geistliche Gesänge, including "Der Mensch lebt und bestehet nur eine kleine Zeit", were found next to his bed.[7][8]

Reger had also been active internationally as a conductor and pianist. Among his students were Joseph Haas, Sándor Jemnitz, Jaroslav Kvapil, Ruben Liljefors, Rudolf Serkin, George Szell and Cristòfor Taltabull.

Reger was the cousin of Hans von Koessler.

Works[edit]

Main article: Max Reger works

Reger produced an enormous output in just over 25 years, nearly always in abstract forms. Few of his compositions are well known in the 21st century. Many of his works are fugues or in variation form, including what is probably his best-known orchestral work, the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart based on the opening theme of Mozart's Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331.

Recording session with Max Reger for the Welte-Philharmonic-Organ, 1913

Reger wrote a large amount of music for organ, the most popular being his Fantasy and Fugue on BACH, Op. 46 and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor from the collection Op. 129. While a student under Hugo Riemann in Wiesbaden, Reger met the German organist, Karl Straube; they became friends and Straube premiered many of Reger's organ works, such as the Three chorale fantasias, Op. 52.

Reger was particularly attracted to the fugal form and created music in almost every genre, save for opera and the symphony (he did, however, compose a Sinfonietta, his op. 90). A similarly firm supporter of absolute music, he saw himself as being part of the tradition of Beethoven and Brahms. His work often combined the classical structures of these composers with the extended harmonies of Liszt and Wagner, to which he added the complex counterpoint of Bach. Reger's organ music, though also influenced by Liszt, was provoked by that tradition.

Some of the works for solo string instruments turn up often on recordings, though less regularly in recitals. His solo piano and two-piano music places him as a successor to Brahms in the central German tradition. He pursued intensively Brahms's continuous development and free modulation, whilst being rooted in Bach-influenced polyphony.

Reger was a prolific writer of vocal works, Lieder, works for mixed chorus, men's chorus and female chorus, and extended choral works with orchestra such as Der 100. Psalm and Requiem, a setting of a poem by Friedrich Hebbel, which Reger dedicated to the soldiers of World War I. He composed music to texts by poets such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Otto Julius Bierbaum, Adelbert von Chamisso, Joseph von Eichendorff, Emanuel Geibel, Friedrich Hebbel, Nikolaus Lenau, Detlev von Liliencron, Friedrich Rückert and Ludwig Uhland. Reger assigned opus numbers to major works himself.[1]

His works could be considered retrospective as they followed classical and baroque compositional techniques such as fugue and continuo. The influence of the latter can be heard in his chamber works which are deeply reflective and unconventional.

Reception[edit]

In 1898 Caesar Hochstetter, an arranger, composer and critic, published an article entitled "Noch einmal Max Reger" in a music magazine (Die redenden Künste 5 no. 49, pp. 943 f). Caesar recommended Reger as "a highly talented young composer" to the publishers. Reger thanked Hochstetter with the dedications of his piano pieces Aquarellen, Op. 25, and Cinq Pièces pittoresques, Op. 34.[1]

Reger had an acrimonious relationship with Rudolf Louis, the music critic of the Münchener Neueste Nachrichten, who usually had negative opinions of his compositions. After the first performance of the Sinfonietta in A major, Op. 90, on 2 February 1906, Louis wrote a typically negative review on 7 February. Reger wrote back to him: "Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein!" ("I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me!").[9][10]

Films[edit]

The documentary Max Reger — Music as a perpetual state, by Andreas Pichler and Ewald Kontschieder, Miramonte Film, was released in 2002. It was the first factually based film documentation about Max Reger. It was produced in cooperation with the Max-Reger-Institute.[11]

Max Reger: The Last Giant, a documentary film about the life and works of Max Reger is currently in production and due for release in December 2016, to mark the 100th anniversary of Reger's death. It is produced by Fugue State Films and includes excerpts from Reger's most important works for orchestra, piano, chamber ensemble and organ, with performances by Frauke May, Bernhard Haas (de), Bernhard Buttmann and the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester (de).[12]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cadenbach, Rainer (1991). Max Reger und Seine Zeit. Laaber: Laaber-Verlag. ISBN 3-89007-140-6.
  • Grim, William (1988). Max Reger: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-25311-0.
  • Häfner, Roland (1982). Max Reger, Klarinettenquintett op. 146. Munich: W. Fink Verlag. ISBN 3-7705-1973-6.
  • Kirshnit, Fred (2006). "Max Reger, Psalm 100, Op. 106". American Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 9 May 2010. 
  • Lux, Antonius, ed. (1963). Große Frauen der Weltgeschichte. Tausend Biographien in Wort und Bild. (in German+Hamburg). Munich: Sebastian Lux Verlag (de). p. 386. 
  • Liu, Hsin-Hung (2004). "A Study on Compositional Structure in Max Reger Phantasie für Orgel über den Choral, "Hallelujah! Gott zu loben, bleibe meine Seelenfreud!"" D.M.A. dissertation. Seattle: University of Washington.
  • Mead, Andrew (2004). "Listening to Reger". The Musical Quarterly 87, no. 4 (Winter): 681–707.
  • Mercier, Richard (2008). The Songs of Max Reger: A Guide and Study. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6120-6.
  • Reger, Elsa von Bagenski (1930). Mein Leben mit und für Max Reger: Erinnerungen von Elsa Reger. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang.
  • Reger, Max (2006). Selected Writings of Max Reger, edited and translated by Christopher Anderson. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97382-1.
  • Schreiber, Ottmar, and Ingeborg Schreiber (1981). Max Reger in seinen Konzerten, 3 vols. Veröffentlichungen des Max-Reger-Institutes (Elsa-Reger-Stiftung) 7. Bonn: Dümmler. ISBN 3-427-86271-2.
  • Traxler, Carol. "Max Reger". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2013-10-19. 
  • "Reger". www.fuguestatefilms.co.uk. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 

External links[edit]

Music scores[edit]

Other[edit]