Max Reger

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Franz Nölken : Max Reger at work (1913)
Bach Reger (cropped) .jpg

Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger (born March 19, 1873 in Brand in the Upper Palatinate ; † May 11, 1916 in Leipzig ) was a German composer , organist , pianist and conductor .


Reger's house in Weiden in the Upper Palatinate

Max Reger was the son of the village school teacher Joseph Reger and his wife Philomena, nee Reichenberger. He grew up in his birthplace of fire / Upper Palatinate nearby town of Weiden on. He received musical instruction at an early age. After visiting the Bayreuth Festival in 1888, he decided against his father's wishes to become a musician.

He studied at the conservatories in Sondershausen (with the music theorist Hugo Riemann ) and in Wiesbaden (there with Riemann and Albert Fuchs ). At the Wiesbaden Conservatory he found a job as a teacher for piano and organ. As a result of his military service and professional setbacks, he suffered a mental and physical breakdown. In 1898 his sister Emma brought him back to his parents' house, heavily in debt, addicted to alcohol and ill. He later called his Wiesbaden years his "storm and drink time". Back home, Reger's musical activity increased enormously. In 1901 he moved to Munich , where he hoped for more musical stimuli than in the Upper Palatinate. In 1902 Reger married the divorced Protestant Elsa von Bercken , whom he had already met in Wiesbaden in 1893, but only met again in Munich. The wedding took place on December 7, 1902 in Bad Boll . The marriage resulted in his excommunication .

Reger's apartments in Leipzig
Lpz.  Felixstrasse  4.jpg
Felixstrasse 4
Lzg.  Kaiser-Wilh.-Str.  68.jpg
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Str. 68

The houses no longer exist

As a composer as well as a concert pianist, Reger was extremely productive during this time. In 1905 he was appointed to the Royal Academy of Music in Munich as Rheinberger's successor , but resigned his post a year later because of disagreements with the predominantly conservative faculty. During a concert stay in Karlsruhe in 1907 Reger received his appointment as university music director and professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig. His students included here u. a. Joseph Haas , Wilhelm Rettich , Othmar Schoeck , Erwin Schulhoff , Johanna Senfter , Botho Sigwart zu Eulenburg , Hermann Keller , Hermann Grabner , Fritz Lubrich , Aarre Merikanto , Otto Didam and the later film composer Willy Schmidt-Gentner . He kept his concert and composition activities.

Reger's home in Meiningen

However, he had given up the post of university music director in 1908. Instead, he took up the position of court conductor at the famous Meiningen court orchestra in 1911 . Long before he took over this position, he formulated the sentence: “There is only one orchestra that I would like to have: Meiningen .” He continued to teach in Leipzig. In 1910 he was awarded a Dr. H. c. of medicine in Berlin.

Hotel Hentschel, Reger's place of death

From 1906, his marriage was increasingly marred by the alcoholism he believed to have been overcome and with which he struggled for the rest of his life. The couple adopted two daughters: Marie-Marta Heyer (* 1905, adopted 1907) as Christa Reger and later Selma Charlotte Meinig as Lotti Reger (* 1905), who were mainly taken care of by his wife Elsa. The large workload between teaching duties and tours also took its toll. After a concert on February 28, 1914 in Hagen , Reger collapsed. He spent a month's cure in Merano , followed by a relaxing holiday. On July 1, 1914, he resigned from his position as court conductor.

However, he soon resumed his intensive composition and concert activities, even after he had moved to Jena in 1915 , from where he went to Leipzig once a week for his lectures . On one of these trips in May 1916, Reger died of heart failure in his room at the Hotel Hentschel after an evening visit to a restaurant with friends . Reger's urn was - after being kept at home in Jena - buried on the sixth anniversary of his death in a Weimar cemetery and, in 1930, on the 14th anniversary of his death, at the request of his widow Elsa Reger, it was transferred to a grave of honor in the Munich forest cemetery , grave no.131-W-14. after she returned to Munich in 1929.


Reger achieved fame primarily through his compositions for the organ . Even during his time in Wiesbaden, although he was "Catholic to the fingertips" himself, he had developed a special affinity for Protestant chorales, which linked him to his great role model Johann Sebastian Bach . Reger rediscovered the old baroque genres of chorale prelude , fantasy and fugue as well as passacaglia and developed them further. The bold chorale fantasies deserve special mention. He has also achieved significant achievements in the fields of chamber music (including literature for string solo), lied , choral and orchestral music .

Classification and characteristics

While Reger's formal sources are in the Baroque era, his sound is more in the tradition of Brahms and Liszt . He also valued Richard Wagner , whose Parsifal had once moved him to become a musician, but declared: "The Brahms fog will stay - I prefer it to the scorching heat of Wagner."

In addition, Reger is also considered to be the finisher of the "chromatic polyphony" that was once cultivated by his model Bach. The sixteen-year-old Reger is said to have said himself that there is “not a particularly big difference” between harmony and counterpoint . A whole series of works is characterized by a considerable expansion of the tonality (including the Symphonic Fantasy and Fugue, Op. 57 and especially the Violin Concerto, Op. 101), which goes far beyond what has already existed.

Reger's compositions are, u. a. by himself, described as technically very difficult and in fact it is to an extent that scares off interpreters, especially since they still have a similarly polarizing effect on a larger audience as those by Brahms, Bruckner and Wagner. The F sharp minor original theme (op.73) and the Bach Variations (op.81) can only be compared in terms of their rank with the variation works by J. S. Bach ( Goldberg Variations ), Beethoven ( Diabelli Variations ) and Brahms ( Paganini Variations ) ).

“My organ things are difficult,” he wrote to his friend, the organist Gustav Beckmann, in 1900, “it takes a clever player who is able to master the technique ... I am often accused of deliberately writing so hard; I have only one answer to this accusation that there is not a single note too many. ”He composed the Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue in E minor op. 127 for the inauguration of the largest organ in the world at the time in the Centennial Hall in Wroclaw . At the request of his close friend and interpreter Karl Straube, he retrospectively revised some of his organ works, so that two versions exist of some pieces, for example the Fantasy and Fugue op. 135b.

In his last creative years, Reger tried to simplify the sentence in favor of the greatest possible clarity and subtlety. The "storm and potion years", as Reger called them, were over, and he now declared his personal style as "free Jena style" (Reger was appointed university music director in Leipzig and lived in Jena from 1915). The most famous works fall into this creative period, for example the Mozart Variations (op.132), in which he uses the well-known theme of the piano sonata in A major, K. 331, which Mozart himself had already varied, or the clarinet quintet in A major (op. 146), his last finished work.


Reger wrote numerous works for organ, harmonium, piano, violin, orchestra, solo instruments with orchestra, chamber music and vocal works.

Among the organ works with an opus number are numerous chorale fantasies, chorale preludes, fugues and sonatas, including the chorale fantasies about “ A strong castle is our God ” op. 27 (1898), “ How beautifully the morning star shines ” op. 40/1 and “ Wake up, the voice calls us "op. 52/2, also Phantasy and Fugue on BACH op. 46 (1900), Symphonic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, Op. 57 (" Inferno Fantasy "), Fantasy and Fugue in D- Minor op. 135b as well as the 2nd Sonata in D minor op. 60. One of Reger's most important organ works is Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in F sharp minor op. 73. The organ works without an opus number often include Introduction and Passacaglia in D minor WoO IV / 6 listed. Then the school of trio play should be mentioned. J. S. Bach's two-part inventions, arranged for the organ by Max Reger and Karl Straube (1903) and Romance in A minor (1904), which the composer presented for both harmonium and organ.

His orchestral works include Sinfonietta op. 90 (1904/5), Serenade op. 95 (1905), Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Johann Adam Hiller (from the Singspiel “Der Ärndtekranz”) op. 100 (1907), concert in old style op. 123 (1912), a romantic suite (after Eichendorff ) op. 125 (1912), four tone poems after A. Böcklin op. 128 (1913), therein N ° 3: “ Die Toteninsel ”, variations and fugue about a theme by Mozart op. 132 and arrangements for Schubert . At a young age Reger probably also composed a symphony in 1896/7, which was not accepted for publication and is now lost, as well as a piano concerto composed at the same time.

His chamber music includes numerous trios, quartets, quintets, a string sextet and sonatas for violin, cello and clarinet with piano.

There are numerous small piano pieces as well as sonatinas, variations and fugues on themes by Johann Sebastian Bach , Ludwig van Beethoven (for two pianos) and Georg Philipp Telemann .

Reger also composed a whole series of works for strings alone (cello suites op. 131c, viola suites op. 131d), a. a. Sonatas for violin alone op.42 and 91 as well as numerous preludes, fugues and Chaconne for violin alone op.117.

His vocal works include around 300 piano songs, a. a. on texts by Christian Morgenstern , Stefan Zweig , Richard Dehmel , Gabriele D'Annunzio , Adolf Holst , as well as sacred songs for voice and organ. The most important vocal works include Der 100. Psalm op. 106 (1908/09) and the Requiem op. 144b (1915) for alto (or baritone), choir and orchestra based on the poem “Seele, don't forget them” by Friedrich Hebbel . He dedicated the work like his Requiem WoO V / 9, which was unfinished on the advice of Straube, to “the memory of the German heroes who died in the war”.

One edition of all works comprises 38 volumes and was published from 1954 to 1990. Since 2010, a new 'Scientific-Critical Hybrid Edition of Works and Sources of Max Reger' (Reger's work edition) has been published; The organ works were published in 2010–2015, the songs and choirs are currently being worked on.


Reger monument from 1937 in the English Garden of Meiningen

Reger's importance was controversial. Although he was celebrated like hardly any other composer during his lifetime, Reger had to put up with hostility from the nationalist-traditionalist music scene, which he called “Philistines”, against his organ works. His former composition teacher Hugo Riemann also formulated a devastating judgment on Reger's work , although personal reasons also played a role.

Fifteen-year-old Sergei Prokofiev was in the audience when Reger conducted his Serenade in G major (op. 95) in St. Petersburg in 1906. Years later, Prokofiev announced that he was fascinated by the effect of the work. Reger's effect on composing contemporaries was ambivalent: Stravinsky, for example, found his music just as repulsive as the composer's appearance.

Reger had a lasting influence on the New Vienna School , and in the 1920s he was the most frequently interpreted contemporary composer in German-speaking countries. Paul Hindemith said in a conversation with the Reger biographer Helmut Wirth: “Max Reger was the last giant in music. I can't even think of it without him. "

In the fin de siècle between Mahler's Last Symphony and Stravinski's Le Sacre du Printemps , Reger's work remained little present among the wider public for a long time. Reger himself predicted: “In a few years I will be called reactionary and scrapped, but my time will come.” Among other things, it is the activities of the Max Reger Archive in Meiningen and the Max Reger Institute in Karlsruhe and thanks to the Max Reger Days in Weiden that Reger's work is experiencing a renaissance in the concert halls.

The Max Reger Archive, founded in 1920 by his widow Elsa Reger, is now located in Schloss Elisabethenburg in Meiningen . It preserves the artistic and personal estate of the composer and is at the same time a meeting place and research center for Reger friends and musicologists. In 1932 the "Reger organ" inspired by him was inaugurated in the Meiningen town church by Erhard Mauersberger ; since then u. a. in Weiden and Munich "Reger organs". In 1947 Elsa Reger continued to found the Max Reger Institute with the Elsa Reger Foundation, which meanwhile owns the world's largest collection of Reger autographs and was the sole holder of the copyrights to Reger's works until the end of 1986.

Honors, designations, monuments

Memorial plaque on the house at Bürgermeister-Prechtl-Straße 31 in Weiden in the Upper Palatinate
  • In 1990 the asteroid (4347) Reger was named after him.
  • Numerous streets and squares in Germany are named after Max Reger.
  • In the town of Weiden in the Upper Palatinate, which in memory of Reger calls itself "Max-Reger-Stadt", there is the music event "Weidener Max Reger Tage", the Max-Reger-Haus, in which he lived in his youth, and a Max Reger Hall. In Max-Reger-Park from 1953 there is a memorial for him - a granite block, designed in 1957 by Josef Gollwitzer as a series of 8 organ pipes. At the Mauermannbrunnen on the lower market in Weiden is the quote from Reger: It was good in the hotel, the hotel for funny bugs, only I didn't like the porter.
  • Schools in Weiden and Amberg are named after Reger.
  • In Meiningen there is a bronze bust of Reger from 1937 (see picture above), next to it a music school and a street are named after him.
  • In his birthplace Brand, a memorial room and a 14.1 km long (200 m) Max-Reger circular route to places of remembrance have been set up for him.
  • In Leipzig, the Leipziger Romantik e. V. since 2017 a "Regeriade" on the eve of Reger's death. This takes place in the Ring-Café , not far from the Hotel Hentschel, which was destroyed in the Second World War , where Reger died. The elements are offered that determined his life, his music as well as food and drink.
  • Max Brod , who met Max Reger in Prague before World War I , experienced the composer in such a contradicting way that he prompted him to give the character Tycho Brahe in his 1915 novel Tycho Brahe's Path to God traits of Reger.

Recordings for Welte-Mignon

On December 8, 1905, Reger recorded ten of his own compositions on piano rolls for the Freiburg company M. Welte & Söhne , manufacturer of the Welte-Mignon reproduction piano :

Reger (with hat) in front of the M. Welte & Sons company in 1913
  • Humoresque in G minor, Op. 20, No. 5 from: Fünf Humoresken, Op. 20 (1898/99)
  • Intermezzo in G minor op.45, No. 5 from: Sechs Intermezzi op.45 (1900)
  • Silhouettes in D major op.53, no.2 and F sharp major op.53, no.3 from: Sieben Silhouetten op.53 (1900)
  • From my diary op. 82, Volume I, No. 3, Andante sostenuto
  • From my diary op. 82, Volume I, No. 5, Moderato
  • From my diary op. 82, Volume I, No. 6, Sostenuto
  • From my diary op. 82, Volume I, No. 10, Andante innocente
  • From my diary op. 82, Volume I, No. 11, Sostenuto ed espressivo

On May 28, 1913 Reger also recorded 15 pieces for the Welte Philharmonic organ .

Reger also recorded 12 pieces for Ludwig Hupfeld AG at an unknown time . Recordings for the Frankfurt company JD Philipps & Sons could no longer be made in 1914 because of the outbreak of war.


  • Guido Bagier: Max Reger. German publishing company, Stuttgart / Berlin 1923.
  • Hermann J. Busch (Ed.): On the interpretation of Max Reger's organ music. Revised and updated new edition. Merseburger, Kassel 2007, ISBN 978-3-87537-311-0 .
  • Rainer Cadenbach: Max Reger and his time. Laaber-Verlag, Laaber 1991, ISBN 3-89007-140-6 .
  • Ferruccio Delle Cave, Gerhard Fasolt: Max Reger. From Merano to Jena. Athesia, Bozen 2016, ISBN 978-88-6839-211-6 .
  • Herbert Eulenberg : Max Reger. In: Shadows - 20 portraits of musicians. ECON, Düsseldorf 1965.
  • Stefan Gasch (ed.): Aesthetics of inwardness. Max Reger and the song around 1900 ( Viennese publications on musicology, 48). Hollitzer, Vienna 2018, ISBN 978-3-99012-535-9
  • Adalbert Lindner: Max Reger. A picture of his youth and artistic development. J. Engelhorn Nachf., Stuttgart 1922.
  • Max Reger Institute (Ed.): Reger work edition. Hybrid edition. Carus, Stuttgart 2010 ff. The entire organ works were published in 7 volumes by 2015, followed by songs and choirs in 2016.
  • Susanne Popp, Susanne Shigihara: Max Reger at the turning point towards modernity. An illustrated book with documents from the holdings of the Max Reger Institute. Bouvier, Bonn 1987, ISBN 3-416-02051-0 .
  • Susanne Popp:  Reger, Johannes Joseph Max. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , pp. 261-263 ( digitized version ).
  • Susanne Popp:  Reger, Max. In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . Second edition, personal section, volume 13 (Paladilhe - Ribera). Bärenreiter / Metzler, Kassel et al. 2005, ISBN 3-7618-1133-0  ( online edition , subscription required for full access)
  • Susanne Popp: Thematic-chronological directory of Max Reger's works and their sources. Reger Works Directory (RWV). Henle, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-87328-123-3 .
  • Susanne Popp: Max Reger. Work instead of life. Biography. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 2015, ISBN 978-3-7651-0450-3 .
  • Franz Rabich: Regerlieder. Study. Beyer and Mann, Bad Langensalza 1914.
  • Karl Josef Schmitz:  Max Reger. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 7, Bautz, Herzberg 1994, ISBN 3-88309-048-4 , Sp. 1469-1480.
  • O. and I. Schreiber (eds.): Max Reger in his concerts. 3 volumes. Dümmler, Bonn 1981, DNB 550674551 .
  • Michael Schwalb: Max Reger. The conservative modernist . Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 2018, ISBN 978-3-7917-2877-3 .
  • Susanne Shigihara: Reger studies. Wiesbaden 1993.
  • Martina Sichardt (Ed.): Approaches to Max Reger , Olms, Hildesheim 2014, online [1]
  • Lotte Taube: Max Reger's mastery years. Edition Bote and G. Bock, Berlin 1941.
  • Hermann Unger : Max Reger. Representation of his life, nature and work. Three masks, Munich 1921.
  • Hermann Unger: Max Reger. Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1924.
  • Martin Weyer : Max Reger's organ works. A handbook for organists . Noetzel, Wilhelmshaven 1989, ISBN 3-7959-0528-1 .
  • Helmut Wirth: Max Reger in self-testimonies and image documents (= rowohlts monographs. 206). Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1973, ISBN 3-499-50206-2 .
  • [Catalog] In search of the work: Max Reger - his work - his collection , [an exhibition by the Max Reger Institute Karlsruhe in the Badische Landesbibliothek on the 125th birthday of Max Reger, 15.9. – 31.10.1998], ed. by Susanne Popp. Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe 1998.


  • 2002: Max Reger - Music as a permanent state . Documentary, Italy, 2002
  • 2017: Max Reger: the Last Giant. Documentary, UK, 2017; supplemented by 12 hours of filmed music performances in the Maximum Reger box

Web links

Commons : Max Reger  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Sheet music and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ulrich, Johann Baptist. In: Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815–1950 (ÖBL). Volume 15, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1957–2013, p. 89.
  2. cf. Ulrich Wirz: "We know from Lindner that Reger wasn't a child prodigy". The preparation worker Max Reger and the musical training at Bavarian preparation schools. In: Gernot Gruber u. a. (Ed.): Music in all things. Festschrift for Günther Weiß on his 70th birthday . Tutzing 2003, pp. 73–86 (PDF) ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Katrin Haase: Do you love your Reger? In: Gewandhausmagazin No. 89, 2015/16, pp. 8–13
  4. Teresa Pieschacón Raphael: Report Max Reger - The joint-Seppel. In: concerti. Retrieved April 13, 2018 .
  5. ^ Joseph Johann Max Reger , Deutschland Heiraten, 1558–1929, FamilySearch , accessed March 10, 2019
  6. From the explanation: “that nothing is so well suited to uplift and cheer up the mind of the depressed and sick person as true art, and that Max Reger in particular, based on the art of the old masters, devoted himself to Musica with a rich ingenuity sacra e profana and made it accessible to the people ”.
  7. Susanne Popp (ed.): The young Reger. Letters and documents before 1900. Wiesbaden 2000, p. 184 f.
  8. ^ Reger in a letter to Gustav Beckmann, quote part 1
  9. ^ Reger in a letter to Gustav Beckmann, quote part 2 ( Memento from August 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Helmut Wirth: Max Reger. With testimonials and photo documents. (= Rowohlt's monographs. 206). Rowohlt, Hamburg 1973, p. 152.
  11. Helmut Wirth: Max Reger. With testimonials and photo documents. (= Rowohlt's monographs. 206). Rowohlt, Hamburg 1973, p. 151.
  12. ^ Max Reger Institute. Emergence. ( Memento from January 6, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) on:
  13. Max-Reger-Stadt Weiden ( Memento from May 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  14. ^ Petra Vorsatz (city archive): Reger tour. Weidener Musiktage 2007, May 5, 2007, accessed on May 11, 2016.
  15. Jutta Porsche: Art in Weiden: The Mauermann fountain - plague cart and double violin. In:, Weiden, August 20, 2008, accessed on May 11, 2016.
  16. II. Rege Riade. Archived from the original on April 14, 2018 ; accessed on April 14, 2018 .
  17. Max Reger - a colossus. From the memories of Max Brod. In: Literature in Bavaria. Published by the Institute for Bavarian Literary History at the University of Munich. Munich 1998, issue 52.