Max Reger

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Max Reger
Max Reger playing piano.jpg
Reger, c. 1910
Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger

(1873-03-19)19 March 1873
Died11 May 1916(1916-05-11) (aged 43)
  • Concert pianist
  • Conductor
  • Composer
  • Academic teacher
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.

Paulinerkirche, Leipzig Church in Leipzig, Germany

The Paulinerkirche was a church on the Augustusplatz in Leipzig. It was built in 1231 as the Klosterkirche St. Pauli for the Dominican monastery in Leipzig. From the foundation of the University of Leipzig in 1409, it served as the university church. After the Protestant Reformation it was donated to the university and was inaugurated in 1545 by Martin Luther as the Universitätskirche St. Pauli, later also called Unikirche. Johann Sebastian Bach was director of music for "festal" (holiday) services in 1723−25.


Reger first composed 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).

Lied musical form

The lied is a term in the German vernacular to describe setting poetry to classical music to create a piece of polyphonic music. The term is used for songs from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries or even to refer to Minnesang from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries. It later came especially to refer to settings of Romantic poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and into the early twentieth century. Examples include settings by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss. Among English speakers, however, "lied" is often used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages. The poems that have been made into lieder often center on pastoral themes or themes of romantic love.

Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart composition for orchestra by Max Reger

The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132, is a set of variations for orchestra composed in 1914 by Max Reger; the composer conducted the premiere in Berlin on 5 February 1915. He later produced a version for two pianos, Op. 132a, where the Variation 8 ("Moderato") is completely different.

<i>Gesang der Verklärten</i> song composed by Max Reger

Gesang der Verklärten, Op. 71, is a composition by Max Reger for a mixed five-part choir and orchestra, a late Romantic setting of a poem by Carl Busse. Reger composed the work in 1903. He dedicated it to "Meiner geliebten Frau Elsa". It was published in 1905 and first performed in Aachen on 18 January 1906 by the municipal choir and orchestra, conducted by Eberhard Schwickerath.


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 .

Brand, Bavaria Place in Bavaria, Germany

Brand is a municipality in the district of Tirschenreuth in Bavaria, Germany.

Kingdom of Bavaria kingdom in Central Europe between 1806–1918, from January 1871 part of the German Empire

The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that succeeded the former Electorate of Bavaria in 1805 and continued to exist until 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1805 as Maximilian I Joseph. The crown would go on being held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom came to an end in 1918. Most of Bavaria's present-day borders were established after 1814 with the Treaty of Paris, in which Bavaria ceded Tyrol and Vorarlberg to the Austrian Empire while receiving Aschaffenburg and Würzburg. With the unification of Germany into the German Empire in 1871, the kingdom became a federal state of the new Empire and was second in size, power, and wealth only to the leading state, the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1918, Bavaria became a republic, and the kingdom was thus succeeded by the current Free State of Bavaria.

Sondershausen Place in Thuringia, Germany

Sondershausen is a town in Thuringia, Germany, capital of the Kyffhäuserkreis district, situated about 50 km north of Erfurt. On 1 December 2007, the former municipality Schernberg was incorporated by Sondershausen.

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]

Elsa Reger

Elsa Reger was a German writer, the wife of the pianist and composer Max Reger, whose memory she kept alive by founding an archive, the Max-Reger-Institute and a foundation, all dedicated to him and his work. The foundation is now named after her.

<i>Sechs Lieder</i>, Op. 35 Lieder by Max Reger

Sechs Lieder, Op. 35, is a set of six Lieder for medium voice and piano by Max Reger. He composed the first five of them in Berchtesgaden in June and July 1899, and the last one in Weiden in August that year. Dedicated to different people, they were published by Jos. Aibl Verlag in Munich the same year.

Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. Divorce usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of distribution of property, child custody, alimony, child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, and division of debt. In most countries, monogamy is required by law, so divorce allows each former partner to marry another person; where polygyny is legal but polyandry is not, divorce allows the woman to marry another person.

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]

<i>Der 100. Psalm</i>

Der 100. Psalm, Op. 106, is a composition in four movements by Max Reger in D major for mixed choir and orchestra, a late Romantic setting of Psalm 100. Reger began composing the work in 1908 for the 350th anniversary of Jena University. The occasion was celebrated that year with the premiere of Part I, conducted by Fritz Stein on 31 July. Reger completed the composition in 1909. It was published that year and premiered simultaneously on 23 February 1910 in Chemnitz, conducted by the composer, and in Breslau, conducted by Georg Dohrn.

Chemnitz Place in Saxony, Germany

Chemnitz, known from 1953 to 1990 as Karl-Marx-Stadt, is the third-largest city in the Free State of Saxony, Germany. Chemnitz is an independent city which is not part of any county and seat of the Landesdirektion Sachsen. Located in the northern foothills of the Ore Mountains, it is part of the Central German Metropolitan Region. The city's economy is based on the service sector and manufacturing industry. Chemnitz University of Technology has around 10,000 students.

Wrocław City in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Wrocław is a city in western Poland and the largest city in the historical region of Silesia. It lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands of Central Europe, roughly 350 kilometres (220 mi) from the Baltic Sea to the north and 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the Sudeten Mountains to the south. The population of Wrocław in 2018 was 639,258, making it the fourth-largest city in Poland and the main city of the Wrocław agglomeration.

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.

Meiningen Court Theatre theater in Meiningen, Thuringia, Germany

The Meiningen Theatre, today Meininger Staatstheater, is a four-division theater in the Thuringian town of Meiningen. The theatre offers music theatre, drama, concerts and puppet theatre. The programme is further enhanced by the inclusion of ballet performances produced and performed by Landestheater Eisenach. The orchestra affiliated with the theatre is the Meininger Hofkapelle. Until 2017, the theatre operated as "Südthüringisches Staatstheater" before changing its name to "Meininger Staatstheater". It is jointly funded by the state, city and county of Schmalkalden Meiningen under the umbrella of the Cultural Foundation Meiningen-Eisenach, Thuringia.

Arnold Böcklin Swiss artist

Arnold Böcklin was a Swiss symbolist painter.

<i>Isle of the Dead</i> (painting) painting series by Arnold Böcklin

Isle of the Dead is the best-known painting of Swiss Symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901). Prints were very popular in central Europe in the early 20th century—Vladimir Nabokov observed in his novel Despair that they could be "found in every Berlin home".

The composer at work, painting by Franz Nolken, 1913 Nolken, Reger.jpg
The composer at work, painting by Franz Nölken, 1913

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.


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 WelteMaxReger1913.jpg
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 recorded some of his works on the Welte Philharmonic organ, including excerpt from 52 Chorale Preludes, Op. 67. He composed organ works for secular use, such as Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, Op. 127, dedicated to Karl Straube who played the premiere at the 1913 opening of the Breslau Centennial Hall.

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.


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]


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, was released on 6 DVD's around 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, Bernhard Buttmann and the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt. [12]

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<i>Requiem</i> (Reger) late Romantic composition of Max Reger

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<i>Unser lieben Frauen Traum</i> sacred motet for unaccompanied mixed choir by Max Reger.

Unser lieben Frauen Traum Op. 138, No. 4, is a sacred motet for unaccompanied mixed choir by Max Reger. The German text is a poem by an anonymous poet, derived from a Volkslied. The piece is in F major and scored for up to six voices, SSATBB. Composed in Meiningen in 1914, it was published in 1916 after Reger's death as the fourth of Acht geistliche Gesänge. It is often performed in Advent.

<i>Der Mensch lebt und bestehet</i> sacred motet for unaccompanied mixed choir by Max Reger

Der Mensch lebt und bestehet, Op. 138, No. 1, is a sacred motet for unaccompanied mixed choir by Max Reger. The German text is a poem by Matthias Claudius, beginning with "Der Mensch lebt und bestehet nur eine kleine Zeit". The piece is in A minor and scored for eight voices in two choirs SATB. Composed in Meiningen in 1914, it was published in 1916 after Reger's death as the first of Acht geistliche Gesänge.

<i>Nachtlied</i> (Reger) sacred moted for mixed choir by Max Reger

Nachtlied Op. 138, No. 3, is a sacred motet for unaccompanied mixed choir by Max Reger. The German text is a poem by Petrus Herbert, beginning "Die Nacht ist kommen". The piece is in B minor and scored for five voices SATBB. Composed in Meiningen in 1914, it was published in 1916 after Reger's death as the third of Acht geistliche Gesänge.

<i>Der Einsiedler</i> song composed by Max Reger

Der Einsiedler Op. 144a, is a composition for baritone soloist, five-part choir and orchestra by Max Reger, written in 1915. The German text is a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff, beginning "Komm' Trost der Welt, du stille Nacht". The composition was published in 1916 after Reger's death by N. Simrock, combined with the Hebbel Requiem, as Zwei Gesänge für gemischten Chor mit Orchester, Op. 144.

<i>Geistliche Gesänge</i>, Op. 110

Geistliche Gesänge, Op. 110, are three motets by Max Reger. He composed them between 1909 and 1912:

<i>Zwei Choralphantasien</i>, Op. 40 fantasias for organ by Max Reger

Zwei Choralphantasien, Op. 40, are fantasias for organ by Max Reger. He composed the fantasias in 1899 on two chorales: "Wie schön leucht't uns der Morgenstern" and "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn!" They were published by Musikverlag Josef Aibl in Munich in May 1900.

<i>Zwölf Stücke</i>, Op. 65 organ pieces by Max Reger

Zwölf Stücke, Op. 65, is a group of twelve pieces for organ by Max Reger, composed in Munich in 1902. They were published by C. F. Peters in Leipzig in August of that year, in two books (Heft) of six pieces each.

<i>Zwölf Stücke</i>, Op. 80 organ pieces by Max Reger

Zwölf Stücke, Op. 80, is a group of twelve pieces for organ by Max Reger. He composed them in Munich in 1902 and 1904. They were published by C. F. Peters in Leipzig in September 1904.

<i>Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott</i> (Reger) chorale fantasias for organ by Max Reger

Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, Op. 27, is a chorale fantasia for organ by Max Reger. He composed it in 1898 on Luther's hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott". The full title is Phantasie über den Choral "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott".

<i>Sieben Stücke</i>, Op. 145

Sieben Stücke für Orgel, Op. 145, is a collection of seven compositions for organ by Max Reger. He composed the work in three groups in 1915 and 1916. The titles of seven individual character pieces reflect aspects of World War I and Christian feasts. The compositions are based on traditional German hymns, sometimes combining several in one piece. Reger's last work for organ, it was published, again in three installments, in 1915 and 1916.

<i>Die Weihe der Nacht</i>

Die Weihe der Nacht, Op. 119, is a choral composition for alto, men's choir and orchestra by Max Reger, setting a poem by Friedrich Hebbel. He composed it in Leipzig in 1911 and dedicated it to Gertrud Fischer-Maretzki, the soloist in the first performance. It was published by Ed. Bote & G. Bock in Berlin the same year.

Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue organ composition by Max Reger, 1913

Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue in E minor, Op. 127, is an extended composition for organ by Max Reger, composed in 1913 and dedicated to Karl Straube who played the premiere in Breslau on 24 September. It was published in November that year in Berlin by Bote & Bock.