Though his style was shaped by the piano and the organ (and he was famed as one of the most sensitive pianists of his time), Reger nourished the universal ambition to write for the most varied forces, interpreters, and categories of listeners. This may be seen in the wide range of works for the violin which run through his entire compositional career. He pointedly began his catalogue of published works in 1891 with the Sonata for violin and piano in D minor Op 1, which was to be followed by eight more sonatas, ending with the Sonata in C minor Op 139 (1915). And whereas his Bach-inspired works for unaccompanied violin of 1899 to 1914 (the Sonatas Opp 42 and 91 and the sets of Preludes and Fugues Opp 117 and 131a) adopt an intimate, monological tone of voice, the Two Romances for violin and small orchestra, written in 1900, were conceived, so to speak, as visiting cards for a big-city public. By having recourse to a favourite genre of bourgeois audiences, thereby following in the footsteps of Beethoven (they even share their opus number with the second of the latter’s two Romances, Opp 40 and 50), Bruch and Dvorák, he hoped to conquer the concert halls of the German Empire’s prosperous large cities. Composed when he was still living in his home town of Weiden, the Romances may be seen to a certain extent as prototypes for the Violin Concerto, since he was already testing in them a fusion of contrapuntal texture and flowing melody which determines the physiognomy of long stretches of the later work. And there may possibly be a slice of autobiography hidden in the effusive, wistful tone of the Romances: Reger dedicated the first to his then publisher Eugen Spitzweg, who managed the Munich firm of Aibl with his brother Otto and did much to promote the composer’s work; the second is inscribed to the Weiden physician Dr Berthold Rebnitzer, who twice rid Reger of neck ulcers that had plagued him during his years in Wiesbaden.
from notes by Wolfgang Rathert © 2012
English: Charles Johnston