Date of this Version
Max Reger’s music is not widely known and performed. His music is often thought of as dense, highly chromatic, and hard to digest. The Telemann Variations offer a different view of this highly prolific composer, who was regarded as the most important composer next to Richard Strauss in early twentieth-century Germany. The theme, a minuet in binary form, is taken from Telemann’s Tafelmusik in B-flat Major. The variations exhibit a transparent texture, regular phrases, and formal balance.
There is a fair amount of literature about the life and music of Reger, much of it written in German. However, the Telemann Variations themselves have not been subject to many scholarly writings. Chapter One of this document provides an introduction to the subject matter and addresses the techniques used for the musical analysis. Chapter Two features biographical information on the composer. The third chapter examines Reger’s performance style at the piano. There are numerous newspaper reviews, witness reports, and letters describing his pianism. The focus of this study lies on relevant passages from German newspaper reviews that haven’t been published in English. Conclusions from these reviews offer valuable insight into Reger’s pianism and musical conception, which is helpful in understanding and performing this work. Chapter Four includes an introduction to the Telemann Variations, as well as a musical analysis of each variation and a discussion of differences among editions, including suggestions for a new performance edition. The musical analysis focuses on the relationship of each variation to the theme with particular emphasis on form, harmony, and melody. The understanding of the relationship of each variation to the theme, and therefore also to the other variations, is important in creating a coherent performance of this huge variation set. Chapter Five offers a summation and a conclusion. The appendices include a list of Reger’s personal piano performance repertoire, piano compositions, and piano roll recordings.