Max Reger on pigs and composers

The German composer, who died 100 years ago yesterday, is best known for his response to a hostile critic: ‘I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment, it will be behind.’

But there is another bon mot for which he should be remembered:

‘Das Schwein und der Künstler werden erst nach ihrem Tode geschätzt.’

The pig and the artist are only appreciated after their death.

Not always, Maxi, and not by everyone.

Reger organ

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  • Interesting composer. I’ve been hearing a bit of his choral music of late. Double choir, very beautiful sound, very bland music. To me a great example of how imagination goes out the window when you so perfectly apply the rules of harmony. Of course, if he was reading this today in that smallest of rooms, I’d fear for his smartphone…

  • There was also a reply from the critic: “If you do it often enough, your behind will soon be cleverer than your head”.

  • Here’s some Reger works I really like.

    4 Boecklin Tone Poems op. 128
    Variations on a theme by J.S. Bach op. 81
    Piano Concerto op. 114
    5 Humoresques op. 20
    Serenade op. 95
    Clarinet Quintet op. 146

    and also I’d like to mention some small works:

    Maria Wiegenlied op. 76 no. 52
    Sonatas for solo instruments (violin, viola, cello)

    • You missed Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Johann Sebastian Bach, Op.81, How about that fugue. I heard R. Serkin play it in Rochester, NY in the ’60s. Rochester/Eastman often was the location for play-through recitals and concerts before taking the show to New York.

  • I’ve long been impressed that anyone who was seemingly perpetually pissed could have written such a huge amount of music. But, when I listen to any of it…………it’s the Bax thing over again.

    • The problem with Reger is that he often neurotically stuffed his textures with full polyphony and modulations without an eye on the greater structure, and / or merely let the music aimlessly meander-on, as in a daze of half-concsiousness (possibly beer drinking has something to do with that). It may be related to digestion problems while reading too many reviews. But occasionally, he really achieved masterly things and wrote music of genius, like this famous toccata and fugue in d. The toccata is an inspired and very dramatic outburst, could have been written by Wagner in his best, most exhalted moments, but then the fugue deserves a nobel prize for dullness, only to be liberated at the end by some very surprising turns and a fascinating conclusion:

      • You make a very good point about the toccata and fugue! The fugue is extraordinarily tedious and plain, a real anti climax after the preceding thunderstorm.
        I once read through his book on ‘modulation’ which is a very clever chunk of musical theory but I’ve yet to find good use for it beyond that. He certainly knew his keys!

  • And what about Regers songcycle Schlichte Weisen, Phantasy and fugue on BACH for organ, 4 sonatas for violin-solo et cetera cetera.
    Great guy!

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