From 1911 he conducted the court orchestra at Meiningen until it was disbanded in 1914, when he moved to Jena. He died of a heart attack in Leipzig. During a composing life of little more than 20 years, Reger produced an enormous output in all genres, nearly always in abstract forms, although few of his compositions are well known today. 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 of Mozart (based on the opening theme of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata, K. 331).
He also wrote a large amount of music for organ, including the Fantasy and Fugue on BACH (this piece, based on the BACH motif, is considered one of the most difficult and demanding in organ literature). He was particularly attracted to the fugal form his entire life, once remarking: "Other people write fugues - I live inside them". He composed music in virtually every other genre too, (opera being a notable exception). He was a firm supporter of absolute music and saw himself as being part of the tradition of Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. His work often combines the classical structures of these composers with the extended harmonies of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner and the complex counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach.
His organ music, though also influenced by Liszt, was provoked by that tradition. Of his orchestral pieces, his symphonic and richly elaborate Hiller Variations and Mozart Variations are justly remembered; of his chamber music the lighter-textured trios have retained a place in the repertory, along with some of the works for solo string instruments. His late piano and two-piano music places him as a successor to Brahms in the central German tradition. He pursued intensively, and to its limits, Brahms's continuous development and free modulation, often also invoking, like Brahms, the aid of Bachian counterpoint: Many of his works are in variation and fugue forms; equally characteristic is a great energy and complexity of thematic growth. His works were not revolutionary and could be considered retrospective as they followed classical and baroque forms such as the fugue and continuo. The influence of the latter can be heard in his chamber works which are deeply reflective and unconventional.
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|V. Siciliano in E minor|
|Variations And Fugue On A Theme Of Beethoven For Two Pianos, Op.86: Andante sostenuto|