Max Reger and Historicist Modernisms

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The first comprehensive English-language account of Reger’s œuvre, Antonius Bittmann emphatically revises misconceptions about Reger’s music which has often been stigmatized because of its indebtedness to earlier composers, especially Brahms. As Bittmann argues, Reger does not turn to historical models in order to preserve or reconstitute antiquated musical languages; rather, viewing himself as a horseman “riding steadfastly to the left,” Reger appropriates the musical past for the most modern ends. Reflecting upon conflicting notions of musical progress, the Phantasie und Fuge über den Namen B-A-C-H, Op. 46, relies on revered traditions to restore cultural health, whereas his Fourth Violin Sonata, Op. 72, adulterates its compositional models with epithets. Reger’s desire to escape the shadow of his great predecessors is evident in works that manifest an aesthetic and intellectual current that probe the psychological underpinnings of creation and reception of art, leading him to eschew history altogether. Taking a strong interest in reception history, Bittmann reassesses Reger’s work by drawing on a wide array of interdisciplinary sources in literary criticism, philosophy, and cultural history. Antonius Bittmann teaches musicology at Rutgers University and holds graduate degrees from Eastman and the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. Published 2004. 320 pages

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