Late romanticist composer and conductor; b. Brand (Bavaria), Germany, March 19, 1873 (baptized Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian); d. Leipzig, May 11, 1916. Reger received his early music instruction from his mother, and after three years (1886–89) as organist at the Weiden Catholic church, he continued his training at the Wiesbaden conservatory, where H. Riemann directed his studies to Bach and Brahms, thus laying the groundwork for his apparently complex contrapuntal style. In 1910 he was appointed teacher of composition, theory, and organ at the Munich Akademie der Tonkunst. There he renounced Riemann's influence and declared himself a "progressivist," and so drew critical attacks from all sides. In 1911 he became director of the court orchestra at Meiningen and restored it to its previous distinction under Hans von Bülow. When at the Duke of Meiningen died in 1913 Reger retired to Jena to compose. Although contemporaries considered him a harmonic innovator, he was actually a traditionalist. His extraordinary technical facility led him to produce numerous works of inordinate length, thick texture, and complicated counterpoint; yet there is nothing in his music that is not paralleled in the works of Richard wagner and Richard Strauss, and an almost desperate preoccupation with sonority for its own sake betrays his basic lack of inspiration. Reger's output includes no music for the Catholic liturgy, but his attractive organ chorales are frequently heard in Catholic churches. For the Lutheran service he produced chorale arrangements, German motets, and sacred songs for small choir. His gigantic setting of Psalm 100 for chorus, organ, and orchestra is a concert work.
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