String Quartet No.1 in g minor, Op.54 No.1
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. In a career that only lasted 20 years, Reger wrote a prodigious amount of music in virtually every genre except opera and the symphony. Chamber music figures prominently within his oeuvre.
String Quartet No.1 dates from 1901. The opening movement, Allegro agitato is densely scored and full of agitated emotion. All of the instruments are continually given important passages simultaneously, creating a charged atmosphere which is straining at the bounds of chamber music. The second movement, Vivace assai, is a scherzo into which Reger inserts a sense of joviality. The emotional depth of the Largo mesto, which follows, is quite intense while the finale, Prestissimo assai, lightens the mood and features a wonderful double fugue in which the theme is developed by stretto, by inversion and by fragmentation. The thrilling conclusion is always an audience pleaser.
This is an important work in which Reger begins on a new post-Brahmsian path. Certainly professionals who present it in concert will be rewarded by their audiences. But experienced amateurs should not miss the chance to get to know this fine work.
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