Reger, Max


Noted contemporary composer; born March 19, 1873, at Brand, near Weiden, Bavaria. His first lessons were on the piano, given by his mother when he was about five years old. He attended school at Weiden, where his father, Joseph Reger, taught music at the preparatory school. After studying under the organist, Lindner, he took harmony and organ lessons from his 'father, and entered the preparatory school to fit himself for school-teaching. In 1888 he attended a performance of Parsifal and Die Meistersinger at Bayreuth, hearing an orchestra for the first time. The strong impressions received from this concert incited him to composition, and the next year, after having passed his school examinations, he submitted his attempts at orchestral writing to Hugo Riemann, who thereupon advised him to follow music as a profession. In the spring of 1890 he went to Sondershausen and continued his study of piano, organ and theory under Riemann, who soon removed to Wiesbaden. Reger followed him, and while studying taught piano., organ, and finally theory at the Conservatory for several years. In 1891 he began to publish his compositions. Following his year of military service a severe illness compelled his return home in 1898. Two years later he settled in Munich, where he was professor of organ, harmony and counterpoint at the Academy, succeeding Erdmannsdorffer as conductor of the Porgesscher Gesangverein. In 1906 he left Munich for Leipsic, where he is now director of the University. He has received the title of " royal professor" from the Saxon ministry decently. In the thirty-five years of his life he has attained a wide reputation as a prolific composer of works that are much discussed. So far they are principally for piano and for organ, and have reached the opus number 104. Several German critics have ranked him with the four greatest composers of variations, his works in that line outnumbering Brahms. His latest work, variations and fugue for orchestra on a theme by Hiller, has excited considerable comment. It was performed in this country at a concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, in December, 1907. His organmusic includes a set of fifty-two choral preludes, which form an attractive introduction to modern organplaying; the two sonatas; a fantasia and fugue on the name Bach; a set of variations, and fantasias on old German chorales. These works show the influence of Bach, which is also said to be noticeable in his four violin sonatas. A recent work is a violin concerto. Other chamber-music includes a serenade for flute, violin and viola; sonatas for cello, for violin and for clarinet; a string quartet; a trio for strings; numerous piano solos, including waltzes and Lose Blatter (Loose Leaves), and duets. He has written no operas nor large choral works, but his three sacred cantatas, based on old German chorales, bear considerable resemblance to Bach's. Of his two hundred or more songs there are a few which are worthy to rank with the best of modern works in this line. Reger's talent, or genius, is purely instrumental, his accompaniments to the songs being usually overelaborate, and the voice taking a part so subordinate that, in the words of Ernest Newman, it is "stretched out like a piece of elastic web in order to cover the distended frame upon which it is set." For orchestra, besides the recent work mentioned, he has published only a serenade of symphonic proportions and of much beauty. It was performed in London at a Promenade concert, and has been given by the Thomas Orchestra in Chicago. By many Reger is considered the greatest composer for the organ since Bach's time; at any rate, he is a leading figure in the musical world today. Personally he is said to be a striking figure, over six feet tall, with a large head, strong features, and somewhat stern expression, with a robust and aggressive individuality.