About this work
Reger was inspired by the Swiss painter Arnold B"cklin. Reger's music is richly late Romantic, with that era's tendency to excess being held in check by Reger's formidable background in formal procedures. These tone paintings range from the moody and mysterious to the carefree. The first, "The violin-playing hermit" depicts the an old monk playing his violin for the Virgin while angels listen. "In Play amidst the Waves" depicts water sprites leaping and playing in the water in a vigorous yet delicate scherzo. The third movement is "The Isle of the Dead, " a painting which five years earlier had inspired a longer tone poem by Rachmaninov. It shows a vessel bearing a shrouded figure silently gliding towards a cypress, girt island; the mood is mysterious and bleak. "The Bacchanale" shows merrymakers brawling around a Roman tavern; it is a flighty and emotional. This intriguing music uses a fully late-romantic harmonic vocabulary and well-conceived orchestral colors.