Rudolph Reti
Rudolph Reti (November 27, 1885 – February 7, 1957), was a musical analyst
Musical analysis
Musical analysis is the attempt to answer the question how does this music work?. The method employed to answer this question, and indeed exactly what is meant by the question, differs from analyst to analyst, and according to the purpose of the analysis. According to Ian Bent , analysis is "an...

, composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

. He was the older brother of the great chess master
Chess master
A chess master is a chess player of such skill that he/she can usually beat chess experts, who themselves typically prevail against most amateurs. Among chess players, the term is often abbreviated to master, the meaning being clear from context....

 Richard Réti
Richard Réti
Réti composed one of the most famous chess studies, shown in this diagram. It was published in Ostrauer Morgenzeitung 4 December 1921. It seems impossible for the white king to catch the advanced black pawn, while the white pawn can be easily stopped by the black king...

 (but, unlike his brother, he did not write his surname with an acute accent on the 'e').

Reti was born in Užice
Užice is a city and municipality in western Serbia, located at the banks of the Đetinja river. It is the administrative center of the Zlatibor District...

 in the Kingdom of Serbia
Kingdom of Serbia
The Kingdom of Serbia was created when Prince Milan Obrenović, ruler of the Principality of Serbia, was crowned King in 1882. The Principality of Serbia was ruled by the Karađorđevic dynasty from 1817 onwards . The Principality, suzerain to the Porte, had expelled all Ottoman troops by 1867, de...

 and studied music theory
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

, musicology
Musicology is the scholarly study of music. The word is used in narrow, broad and intermediate senses. In the narrow sense, musicology is confined to the music history of Western culture...

 and piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. Among his teachers was the pianist Eduard Steuermann
Eduard Steuermann
Eduard Steuermann was an Austrian pianist and composer. The actress Salka Viertel was his sister...

, an eminent champion of Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and a supporter of modern music. Reti was in contact with Schoenberg at the time of that composer's earliest atonal works, and gave the premiere of his Six Little Piano Pieces op 19.

Reti's compositions have not remained in the repertoire, but he was an active composer and received a number of high-profile performances. At the end of the first International Festival of Modern Music in Salzburg, in 1922, his 'Six Songs' were performed alongside Schoenberg
Schoenberg is the surname of several persons:* Arnold Schoenberg , Austrian-American composer* Claude-Michel Schoenberg , French record producer, actor, singer, popular songwriter, and musical theatre composer...

's Second Quartet; three years later, at the 3rd ISCM Festival in Prague, his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra shared a programme with Martinu's 'Half-Time' and Vaughan Williams's 'A Pastoral Symphony'. In 1938, his David and Goliath Suite was performed by van Beinum and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 1948, Jean Sahlmark was the soloist in her husband's First Piano Concerto. Reti's output also includes several volumes of piano pieces and songs, an opera (Ivan and the Drum), as well as symphonic and choral music.

Between 1930 and 1938 Reti was chief music critic for the Austrian newspaper Das Echo. Together with the composer and musicologist Egon Wellesz
Egon Wellesz
Egon Joseph Wellesz was an Austrian-born British composer, teacher and musicologist, notable particularly in the field of Byzantine music.- Life :...

 he was involved in establishing the International Festival of Modern Music, and founded the International Society for Contemporary Music
International Society for Contemporary Music
The International Society for Contemporary Music is a music organization that promotes contemporary classical music.ISCM was established in 1922, in Salzburg. Its core activity is the World Music Days Festival, held every year at a different location. The festival includes cutting edge productions...

 in 1922. In 1939 Reti emigrated to the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and later became an American citizen. He became a member of the American Musicological Society
American Musicological Society
The American Musicological Society is a membership-based musicological organization founded in 1934 to advance scholarly research in the various fields of music as a branch of learning and scholarship; it grew out of a small contingent of the Music Teachers National Association and, more directly,...

, and came to hold a fellowship at Yale
RapidMiner, formerly YALE , is an environment for machine learning, data mining, text mining, predictive analytics, and business analytics. It is used for research, education, training, rapid prototyping, application development, and industrial applications...

. From 1943 he was married to the pianist, teacher, musicologist and editor Jean Sahlmark, who helped prepare for publication his two posthumous books. He died in Montclair, New Jersey
Montclair, New Jersey
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 38,977 people, 15,020 households, and 9,687 families residing in the township. The population density was 6,183.6 people per square mile . There were 15,531 housing units at an average density of 2,464.0 per square mile...


Reti is best remembered today for his distinctive method of musical analysis, which he claimed revealed the 'thematic
Theme (music)
In music, a theme is the material, usually a recognizable melody, upon which part or all of a composition is based.-Characteristics:A theme may be perceivable as a complete musical expression in itself, separate from the work in which it is found . In contrast to an idea or motif, a theme is...

 process' in music. His approach did not concern itself, however, with tracing the obvious thematic and motivic 'developments' displayed on the musical 'surface', but rather sought to demonstrate the way in which surface thematic variety is underpinned by a less apparent unity. For Reti,
and the composer
Reti's way of showing 'maintained substance' would usually involve constructing a music example which juxtaposed a number of contrasting themes; the 'homogeneity in the inner essence' was represented by the notes printed at full size; the 'variety in the outer appearance' would be relegated to small type. In focusing on shared features and hidden similarities in shape and contour, the tonal or harmonic significance of the various 'significant' notes in the themes would usually be ignored. So too would rhythm—with the result that Reti's method focuses on relatively abstract 'pitch cells' rather than rhythmically defined 'motifs'. In addition to admitting inversional and retrograde relationships between cells, Reti also introduced the process of 'interversion', in which the notes of a cell would be re-ordered.

Reti's analytical procedure is best understood concurrently to the work of other contemporary German analysts of the time such as Schenker
Heinrich Schenker
Heinrich Schenker was a music theorist, best known for his approach to musical analysis, now usually called Schenkerian analysis....

 and Schoenberg. Like Schenker, and Schoenberg, Reti's analysis of musical works was primarily motivic, tracing the evolution of a musical work from a melodic kernel. The preoccupation the three aforementioned theorists had with such procedure stems from a metaphysical belief that the works of the "great masters" (as exemplified in the First Viennese School
First Viennese School
The First Viennese School is a name mostly used to refer to three composers of the Classical period in Western art music in late-18th-century Vienna: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven. Franz Schubert is occasionally added to the list.In German speaking countries, the...

) were unified thematically often, from a single idea. The metaphysical basis of this idea was the fact that such unity, was thought to be a metaphor for the unity of God's creation. Thus in Reti's analysis the "thematic process" is explored, in Schenker the analysis takes the form of a reductionist procedure, and in Schoenberg the unity of a musical work from a "Grundgestalt" (basic shape) is asserted.

Reti's method has been criticized by music theorist Nicholas Cook
Nicholas Cook
Nicholas Cook is a British musicologist and writer born in Athens, Greece. In 2009 he became the 1684 Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge, where he is a Fellow of Darwin College...

, who regards as Reti as having been over-concerned with proving the validity of his method, at the expense of producing convincing analyses of individual works.

Whatever one's opinion, it is clear that Reti's analysis must be understood within the context of early twentieth century musicology.


  • 'Salzburg - Verheißung und Gefahr', 23. Eine Wiener Musikzeitschrift, Reprint, Nummer 15/16 (1935)
  • The Thematic Process in Music (1951). ISBN 0837198755.
  • 'The Role of Duothematicism in the Evolution of Sonata Form', Music Review, Volume XVII Number 2 (1956)
  • Tonality, Atonality, Pantonality: A study of some trends in twentieth century music (1958). ISBN 0313204780.
  • Thematic Patterns in Sonatas of Beethoven (ed. Deryck Cooke; Faber, 1967)

External links

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