Max Reger

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String Sextet in F Major, Op.118

Max Reger's String Sextet, composed in 1910, is an excellent example of his goal of modernizing musical language within a traditional tonal framework in order to arrive at a new means of expression. He had no desire to follow the Second Vienna School on their voyage into atonalism. Instead, he worked hard to find a new path, one in which equal emphasis is given to rhythm, harmony, dynamics and melody. As one critic wrote after the Sextet's premiere, "Here is a great and original work which leaves no wish unfulfilled."


The opening theme to the first movement, Allegro energico, is robust and rough hewn. Here, Reger has the upper voices present the striking first part of the theme while opposed by the lower three voices with triplets. His sophisticated use of counterpoint results in original polyphonic episodes. The second movement, Vivace, is based on a gripping alternation of dramatic and quiet sections. The result is particularly effective. The main section is filled with forward drive while the middle section is slower and more lyrical. Wilhelm Altmann, the famous critic and scholar, called the third movement, Largo con grand espressione, "A deeply moving transcendental experience". In the form of a simple chorale, Reger later wrote, "It was my conversation with God." The finale, Allegro commodo, is, as the title suggests, full of commotion and powerful dramatic contrasts.


Max Reger (1873-1916) was born in the small Bavarian town of Brand. He began his musical studies at a young age and his talent for composition became clear early on. His family expected him to become a school teacher like his father and to this end passed the necessary examinations for certification. However, before he landed his first teaching job, he met the eminent musicologist Hugo Riemann, who was so impressed by Regerís talent that he urged him to devote himself entirely to music. Reger studied with him for nearly five years. By 1907 Reger was appointed to the prestigious position of Professor of composition at the Leipzig Conservatory. In addition to this he was widely regarded as one of the best living conductors and organists.


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