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Theodor Müller-Reuter
Theodor Müller-Reuter

Müller-Reuter's Lexicon

Coming from a Dresden musical family, Theodor Müller-Reuter (1858-1919) debuted as a wunderkind pianist when only twelve years old. Initially a piano pupil of the pedagogue Friedrich Wieck, he went on to study once a week in Berlin with Wieck's renowned daughter Clara Schumann and began composition lessons there with her half-brother Woldemar Bargiel. At home in Dresden he studied with the composer Julius Rietz. When the Hoch Conservatory opened in Frankfurt in 1875 and Madame Schumann joined the staff, Reuter enrolled and there came under the influence of its director Raff, with whom he continued to study composition. He left the Conservatory in 1879 to take up a teaching post in Strasbourg but there suffered injuries to his right hand and both arms through over-practice. He was forced to abandon his concertising career and instead turned to conducting and teaching, eventually gaining a prestigious professorial post back in Dresden. With a fine academic reputation and growing renown as a choral conductor, in 1893 Reuter moved to the Rhineland city of Krefeld and there continued to enhance his standing by building up the city's choral and orchestral life, transforming it into one of the foremost musical centres in Germany. For the rest of his life Reuter coupled superintending Krefeld's music scene with musicological writing which still influences academics today. As a composer, he had local success in his day with large scale choral compositions of which Das Lied des Sturmes (The Song of the Tempest) was probably the most performed..

Described as having a "genial and unassuming personality", Müller-Reuter wrote many articles, an autobiography and books on Schumann and Mendelssohn but his major contribution to musicology is his Lexikon der Deutschen Konzertliteratur (Lexicon of German concert literature) of 1909. This 650 page "Guide for conductors, concert organisers, composers and music lovers" lists the orchestral, choral and chamber music of Berlioz, Bruch, Draeseke, Gernsheim, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Raff, Reinecke, Schubert, Schumann, Richard Strauss and Wagner. A second volume was clearly planned but never published. Although stage and piano works are omitted it is otherwise very comprehensive in its coverage of each piece. Each entry lists the work's movements and their estimated length in performance, which in his introduction Müller-Reuter emphasises comes from his personal observations over many years. The composition history is recorded and in this Reuter was aided by his extensive contacts either with the composers themselves or with their surviving relatives. He charts the publication history and is particularly assiduous is recording the early performance history. Finally, his extensive notes on many of the pieces add further valuable information.

Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
Schäfer's entry for the 4th. Piano Trio
Müller-Reuter's entry for the Fourth Piano Trio
One of the shorter entries in Müller-Reuter's Lexicon - the Piano Trio No.4.
Compare this with the entry for the same work in Schäfer's catalogue.

Although writing at a time when Raff's reputation was near its nadir, Reuter clearly felt great loyalty to his old teacher and demonstrated this by devoting 67 pages to his compositions. His review provides an extremely valuable supplement to Schäfer's catalogue, especially so because in his introduction to the Raff pages he makes no bones about throwing doubts on the accuracy of Schäfer's work, about which he writes:

"This very industrious work is worthy of respect and is to be regarded as an important preliminary work for the following Section, however its use was not allowed to relieve the obligation to check all the data given by Schäfer. It is not known from which sources Schäfer drew his reports about the dates of composition. He did not know of the rich material in letters to and from Raff used by the author. Of these, Raff's letters to Hans von Bülow were particularly productive, although a large part was unfortunately destroyed by Bülow himself during his stay in Godesberg. Of the remaining 22 letters, some were retained by Louis Lüstner together with other papers and there were the letters to his wife, all of which made possible those corrections to some of the composition dates given by Schäfer. In Raff's manuscripts, whether drafts or copies, nowhere is there an indication of the date of composition and we will probably never succeed in determining these with accuracy. To check on the data on premieres given by Schäfer a far richer and more reliable material was available: the original programs of most first performances and many critical reviews of the same. For access to this primary material, together with the most extensive support, the author is indebted to the generosity of Frau Doris Raff. This material was nonetheless insufficient for the premieres of the chamber music works and [I] have so far not succeeded in determining the first performance of many of them, despite the most the laborious research. The publication notes given by Schäfer proved in many cases to be unreliable, since Schäfer obviously often used the Hofmeister musical-literary monthly reports as a source. These reports, however, in many cases give only the approximate date of publication, sometimes several months too late, as could be determined from inquiries to the publishers."

Interestingly, comparison of the two books does not throw up as many disagreements as one would assume from Reuter's ringing condemnation of Schäfer's methods, and most of them are in the field of premiere performances.

As well as providing an alternative and thorough review of most of Raff's major works, Reuter's Lexicon is interesting in several other respects:

Firstly, his publication of previously private letters from Joseph Joachim and Bernhard Coßmann to Doris Raff supporting her assertion that Raff was responsible for the final orchestration of a number of Liszt's works. At the time of the Lexicon's publication this fuelled a dispute which had been rumbling on for years since both men's deaths and prompted by the publication of letters between them by Raff's daughter Helene, and by the recollections of prominent musicians like Joachim and von Bülow, who were either friends of Raff or anti-Liszt partisans. The debate continued in earnest until the more outrageous assertions were discredited in the next decade by research into Liszt's surviving manuscripts.

Secondly, Reuter for the first time published Raff's own very extensive programme for the Symphony No.3 Im Walde. In the published score each movement is prefaced with a brief but adequate description of the impressions or events which it portrays. In contrast, Raff's original plan, which according to Reuter was taken from the autograph draft, runs to several pages. He provides an progressive narrative for each movement which is similar, but in each case much more detailed, than that given just for the finale in the published score. Reuter does not speculate why Raff never allowed it to be published in his lifetime but he probably felt that allowing such a close correlation between programme and music would detract from the purely musical impact of the piece.

Finally, but in this case not restricted to Raff, Reuter's indication of performance timings shows that, if they are to be treated as relieble indications, at the turn of the 20th. century either many major works were played much more briskly than is common today or that extensive cuts were made in performance (although this is nowhere made clear). For example, the Symphony No.5 Lenore is estimated to take 34 minutes to perform, whereas a modern performance would take between 10 and 15 minutes longer than that.

[Theodor Müller-Reuter's Lexikon der Deutschen Konzertliteratur was published by C.F. Kahnt of Leipzig in 1909 with a supplement published in 1921. A facsimile reprint was published by Da Capo Press, New York in 1971 - ISBN 0-306-70274-6]

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