'I consider him a genius' said Schoenberg

'Reger ought to be performed often. 1. Because he wrote a great deal; 2. Because he is already dead and we do not yet have a clear picture of him (I consider him a genius).'
Genius may be a devalued epithet, but when it is used by Arnold Schoenberg, here writing to Zemlinsky in 1922, take notice. Corroboration of Schoenberg's view comes in an imaginative new 2CD release from acclaimed violinist Sayaka Shoji. This matches Max Reger's three Preludes and Fugues with the Bach sonata and partitas that inspired them. In addition to making a persuasive case for Reger the glorious bloom of sound captured in la Chapelle de l'Enfant Jésus, Paris is a salutary reminder that digital and believable are not mutually exclusive. An insightful trilingual sleeve note by Gilles Cantagrel points out that while Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler and Strauss have found international recognition Reger is little known outside Germany. This is confirmed by that useful litmus test the BBC Proms database, which documents just twelve performances of Reger's music in 117 years. Talking of which, Sayaka Shoji's Bach and Reger are on the French Mirare label, as is a recording of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony by the African Canadian conductor Kwamé Ryan. Now read about where Reger is ranked alongside Gustav Mahler, Paul Dessau, Carl Zelter and Albert Lortzing.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. Sayaka Shoji's recording of Bach and Reger was bought in Leclerc, Saint Gilles, France. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Elaine Fine said…
I totally agree with Schoenberg!

(and this comment window now seems to be working.)
JMW said…
I remember reading that Arnie quote years ago and thinking that for all the attention and credence given to his pronouncements, this is one of the few that his been almost completely overlooked. I also agree with Schoenberg about Reger's accomplishment. There is much great to choose from among his oeuvre, but one need only to listen to the Op.109 string quartet (no. 4 among five) to understand what this great composer had to say. I could recommend many things, but I'll merely plug the Fischer-Dieskau recording of Reger's orchestral snags on the Orfeo label. Listening to the opening song "Der Einsiedler", one can identify the composer within three beats, so plain is the composer's voice, and Dieskau's understanding and delivery of the material is simply magnificent. Maybe we should take time out for a Reger appreciation day. After all, wasn't Schoenberg who also said that Reger was the true link between romanticism and the new music?
Philip Amos said…
Please forgive these few comments if they seem disjointed, but I am not so well today and the less coherent for it. One thing that occurred to me was that the organ recital, as someone commented recently, holds a rather uncertain position in the world of musical performance, and the great quantity of organ music Reger composed may have been something of a hindrance in earning him his due. The second was that credit must go to Rudolf Serkin for resolutely championing the Piano Concerto Op.114, for surely on occasion Serkin, no pussy cat, and orchestra managements must have had a set-to over it. And he played the Bach Variations Op.81 with some frequency -- but why no other piano works? As far as I know, that is.

There is no lack of them, of course: Markus Becker has recorded the complete works for piano on twelve CDs for Thorofon, and also the cello sonatas. Hamelin has recorded Opp. 81 and 134, and also the concerto. (Perhaps one day someone will transcend the astonishing Hamelin in some way or other, but I wager he'll always be the only pianist who recorded both Max Reger and Donald Swann -- "Have some Madeira..."). I see that Becker has now joined Hyperion, the label of Hamelin also.

The final sentence of John's, as always, stimulating comment bears investigation and thinking about. There is an unmentioned crucial link there, and it reminded me of a pianist of some distinction to whom I mentioned that I had studied with Webern's last pupil (and protege of that most musical of artists, Vasily Kandinsky), and so 'brought up' on Bach, Schoenberg, and Webern. She thought that most peculiar, which led me to think she may have been playing hookey during the musicology classes.

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