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Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (Piano, Clavichord, Composer)

Born: Augusr 28, 1903 - Szász-Régen, Transylvania
Died: September 18, 1969 - Berlin, Germany

The Romanian-born German composer, pedagogue, pianist, and clavichordist, Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, entered the Leipzig Conservatory as a piano pupil of Robert Teichmüller in 1919. In 1920 he enrolled at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik as a student in conducting of Rudolf Krasselt and Siegfried Ochs, in orchestration of Ernil Rezniček, and in theory and composition of Friedrich Koch and Franz Schreker.

Rudolf Wagner-Régeny first gained notice as a composer with his theater pieces for Essen. In 1929 he met the designer Caspar Neher, who found fame through his association with Kurt Weill. Neher wrote the texts for Wagner-Régeny's best-known operas. In 1930 he became a naturalized German citizen, and married a woman who was half-Jewish. Between 1930 to 1945 he worked as a freelance composer and teacher. With the rise of the Nazis was promoted by a faction of the party as a composer of the future. He functioned reasonably well as a composer during the Third Reich. His works were performed by Karl Böhm and Herbert von Karajan. However, the success of his opera Der Günstling (Dresden, February 20, 1935) was followed by his supporters' doubts regarding his subsequent output, ending in a scandal with his opera Johanna Balk at the Vienna State Opera (April 4, 1941). His friend, the local Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach, was well-known for his penchant for high culture. The premiere of this opera inspired the ire of Goebbels. As punishment, Wagner-Regény was drafted into the military in 1942 (or 1943). He was fortunate enough to land a desk job in the army and survive.

After the close of World War II, Rudolf Wagner-Régeny opted for East instead of West Germany. He was director of the Rostock Hochschule für Musik from 1947 to 1950. In 1950 he was appointed as a professor of composition at the (East) Berlin Hochschule für Musik and at the Academy of Arts. He continued to work there until 1968.

As a composer, Wagner-Regény struggled to find a musical language distinct from the extremes of modernism but without any association with fascist aesthetics. His early compositions were inspired by Ferruccio Busoni, Kurt Weill and Arnold Schoenberg. His theater co-operations with Neher and Bertold Brecht was also of importance for the development of his style. After composing works along traditional lines, he adopted his own 12-note serial technique in 1950. Opera has a prominent role within his output In their transparency and austerity, his stage works follow the music theatre of Brecht and Weill. From the 1940's onwards, he integrated dodecaphony into his musical language; a synthesis is reached in Das Bergwerk zu Falun (The Mines of Falun, 1958-1960). His music displays a Humanist ethos, as when he said about Prometheus: "With Prometheus, I said yes to life."


Dramatic: Operas:
Sganarelle oder Der Scbein trügt (1923; Essen, March 1929)
Moschopulos (
Gera, December 1, 1928)
Der nackte König (1928;
Gera, December 1, 1930)
Der Günstling oder Die letzten Tage des grossen Herrn Fabiano (1932-1934;
Dresden, February 20, 1935)
Die Bürger von Calais (1936-1938;
Berlin, January 28, 1939)
Johanna Balk (1938-1940; Vienna, April 4, 1941)
Das Bergwerk zu Falun (The Mines of Falun) (1958-1960; Salzburg, August 16, 1961)

Moritat (1928; Essen, March 1929)
Der zerbrochene Krug (
Berlin, 1937)

Other Dramatic:
Esau und Jacob, biblical scene for 4 Soloists, Speaker, and String Orchestra (1929; Gera, 1930)
La Sainte Courtisane for 4 Speakers and Chamber Orchestra (Dessau, 1930)
Die Fabel vom seligen Schlächtermeister (1931-1932;
Dresden, May 23, 1964)
Persische Episode (1940-1950; Rostock, March 27; 1963)
Prometheus, scenic oratorio (1957-1958;
Kassel, September 12, 1959)
Incidental music to 7 plays

Orchestermusik mit Klavier (Piano Concerto; 1935)
Mythologische Figurinen (1951; Salzburg, June 21, 1952)
3 Orchestersätze (1952)
Einleitung und Ode (1967)
8 Kommentare zu einer Weise des Guillaume Machauts for Chamber Orchestra (1968)

Kleine Gemeinschaftsmusik for 6 Instruments (1929)
Spinettmusik (1934)
String Quartet (1948)
Introduction et communication à mon ange gardien for String Trio (1951)
Divertimento for 3 Winds and Percussion (1954)
Piano pieces

Cantica Davidi regis for Boy's Chorus, Bass Chorus, and Chamber Orchestra (1954)
Genesis, Cantata for Alto, Chorus, and Small Orchestra (1955-1956)
An die Sonne, cantata for Alto and Orchestra (1967-1968)
Hermann-Hesse-Gesänge for Baritone and Small Orchestra (1968-1969)
Many songs with piano

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Bossey & Hawkes Website; American Symphony Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2007)

Rudolf Wagner-Régeny: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (Bossey & Hawkes)
Music of Conscience (American Symphony)

Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (Wikipedia) [German]
Wagner-Régeny, Rudolf (Musica Viva Encyclopedia)


A. Burgartz: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (Berlin, 1935)
T. Müller-Medek, ed.: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny: Begegnungen, biographische Aufzeichnungen, Tagebücher und sein Briefwechsel mit Caspar Neher (
Berlin, 1968)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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