Movement 1: Agitato
Movement 2: Prestissimo assai
Movement 3: Intermezzo: Poco sostenuto (Quasi adagio)
Movement 4: Allegretto con grazia (Quasi allegro)
Despite the dedication to Becker and publication in Munich in 1899, the second Sonata was destined not to be performed until 1906. There are four movements, and the presence of a short Intermezzo rather than a full-blown slow movement lends the work something of a suite-like character. The Brahmsian influence, in many respects better assimilated than in Op 5, is patent from the thrusting outset of the Agitato first movement with its virile rising theme and surging accompaniment. This is a much more concise and concentrated sonata-form design than its counterpart in the previous sonata. A soft three-note figure in the piano serves to introduce the second subject, which expands from its initial espressivo character to forceful dotted-rhythm writing; mysterious, opalescent figuration introduces a brief codetta. All elements are pressed into service in the development, which throws up an oscillating sextuplet figure that persists into the beginning of the recapitulation. This again continues the process of development while passing the main subjects and their attendant satellites in review. The coda, brief and downbeat, builds upon the codetta of the exposition.
The ensuing scherzo, marked Prestissimo assai, and directed to be played sempre leggiero, is something like a very fast minuet, a witty essay ‘im alten Stil’. The Andantino trio, however, is a warmly Romantic effusion with one of Reger’s tenderest melodies. Something of the same spirit prevails at the start of the E major Intermezzo, where the music is almost redolent of the salon. But it develops into a quite strenuous Poco agitato whose march-like dotted rhythms and internal sextuplet rhythms seem reminiscent of the first movement. The opening idea returns, suitably expanded and embellished, sinking to a peaceful close.
The lilting, graceful rhythm of the last movement—marked Allegretto con grazia (Quasi allegro) and opening in a fulfilled G major—sets the mood for one of Reger’s most inventive finales, which after traversing a good deal of ground harmonically and melodically, and occasionally disturbed by gusts of passion, ends swiftly and unexpectedly softly in a dying fall.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008