More than half a century after the publication of Reger’s songs and choral works in the Max Reger Complete Edition a new edition of all the songs and choral works is being published in eleven volumes as the second part of the Reger-Werkausgabe:
The second volume in the Songs and Choral Works Series contains, in chronological order, the songs Max Reger composed between summer 1899 and spring 1901 in Berchtesgaden (Schneewinkl-Lehn) and Weiden.• Six Songs op. 35 (1899)
• Five Songs op. 37 (1899)
• Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht WoO VII/21 (1899)
• Letzte Bitte WoO VII/22 (1899)
• Eight Songs op. 43 (1899)
• Seven Songs op. 48 (1900)
• Nachtgeflüster WoO VII/23 (1900)
• Süße Ruh WoO VII/24 (1900)
• Brautring WoO VII/25 (1900)
• Geheimnis WoO VII/26 (1900)
• Mädchenlied WoO VII/27 (1900)
• Hoffnungslos WoO VII/28 (1900)
• Sonnenregen WoO VII/29 (1900)
• Twelve Songs op. 51 (1900)
• Fifteen Songs op. 55 (1901)
1.1. Biographical context
The years 1898 to 1901 marked Reger’s breakthrough as a composer. After a difficult physical and psychological crisis, he had returned from Wiesbaden to his parents’ house in Weiden. There he was able to concentrate on his composing without outside obligations, and he succeeded in consolidating things both artistically and personally. In just three years he composed over 40 works and numerous arrangements. His artistic productivity was helped not least the lack of distractions. An increasing sense of confidence also resulted in the successful conclusion of his search for a publisher which Reger had embarked upon after George Augener (London) had lost interest in his works. Thanks to an introduction from Richard Strauss, who initially recommended him as an arranger, then also as a composer,1 Reger met Otto and Eugen Spitzweg, the managing directors of the Munich publisher Jos. Aibl. In spring 1899 the company published works including his opp. 19–23, 28, and 30 –32, and in summer the first piano arrangements of songs by Richard Strauss (RWV Strauss-B1). Over the following years, Aibl could be relied on by Reger to publish his works, most of which he submitted in groups. As early as March 1899 the debts which he still had remaining from his period in Wiesbaden were almost paid off.2
In his works, Reger focussed primarily on three areas: major organ works, chamber music, and songs. In Weiden he composed works for organ including seven Chorale fantasias (opp. 27, 30, 40 nos. 1–2, 52 nos. 1–3), the Sonata in F sharp minor op. 33, Fantasia and Fugue on B-A-C-H op. 46 and Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue op. 57, in chamber music the Cello Sonata in G minor op. 28, the Violin Sonata in A major op. 41, Four Sonatas for solo violin op. 42, the Clarinet Sonatas in A major and F sharp minor op. 49 nos. 1 and 2, the Piano Quintet in C minor op. 64 and the String Quartets in G minor and A major op. 54 nos. 1 and 2. As well as this, Reger composed choral works and songs, the latter often individual works slotted in amongst the long progress of composing organ and chamber music. The extent of a collection was often not clear at the beginning. Reger, who was “always on the search for texts” 3, more often gradually gathered together songs he had composed into one opus, or divided them between several (see opp. 35 and 37). Over time the song collections became more extensive; opp. 51 and 55 (1900/01) already contained 12 and 15 songs respectively. The order of the songs was always decided upon subsequently by the composer (see the respective histories of each work’s composition).
Whilst Reger had set 19th century classics in the songs he composed in Wiesbaden (Friedrich Rückert, Emanuel Geibel),4 in Weiden he turned almost exclusively to contemporary lyric poetry, for which he held great musical hopes. At the beginning of 1900 he stated: “Equally I find the complaints in our “favorite German magazines of the snobbish cultured elite” [...], that there are no longer any ‘poets’, simply laughable! e. g. what marvellous truly poetic images of the very first rank our new German poets such as D. von Liliencron, J. O. Bierbaum, R. Dehmel, E. Bodmann, Anna Ritter, O. Wiener etc. etc. have created! [...] I find that our modern lyric poetry [...] has become much more sensitive! Much finer too!” 5 A central criterion for Reger’s choice of texts was not the poetic work of art, but “the basic mood and the intensity of feeing elicited by the text” 6. The texts followed an “aspiration to an ‘inwardness’ [‘Innerlichkeit’]” ubiquitous in contemporary lyric poetry, with which “more subtly perceived emotions were given expression” 7. Reger developed his approach to this modern lyric poetry in his Weiden songs in the sense of an “art of impression and nerve” 8, in which harmonious floating states, ambivalences, and nuances are created. The desire to “formulate a ‘modern language of feelings’” 9 was accompanied by the renunciation of melodic cantabile qualities and a turning towards the modern ‘declamatory’ song.10
As Reger was still without access to artistic circles in Weiden, he satisfied his great need for texts mainly through music, literature, and interdisciplinary arts magazines. He found texts for his songs in, for example, Stimmen der Gegenwart (Monatsschrift für moderne Literatur und Kritik, edited by Max Beyer and Martin Boelitz), in Die Gesellschaft (Münchener Halbmonatsschrift für Kunst und Kultur, edited by Arthur Seidl) and in the “Texte für Liederkomponisten” column in the Neue Musik-Zeitung. Around 1900 he also made his first contact by letter with poets (Anna Ritter, Richard Braungart), who sent him texts to set.
As a performer of his songs, Reger was firstly able to interest Josef Loritz, a baritone who had studied in Munich and was the conductor of the Regensburg Liederkranz. In 1899, at the age of 35, he began a career as a singer and gave concerts with Reger several times over the following years.11 Other early performers of Reger’s songs included Susanne Dessoir (née Triepel) and Maria Hösl, the sister of his friend the violinist Josef Hösl. But to be able to promote his works actively, it was necessary to move away from tranquil Weiden: “I have to go to a center of music”,12 Reger wrote to the organist Georg Stolz. From early on he had his sights on Munich, where he was able to make his debut as a pianist in December 1900.13 On 1 September 1901 Reger and his parents left the provincial Upper Palatinate and moved to the Bavarian capital with its cultural high-life.
1.2. Early reception
As long as Reger still lived in Weiden, he could only call on performers from his close circle to disseminate his songs. For example, Maria Hösl sang the song Traum durch die Dämmerung op. 35 no. 3 in November 1899 in Heidelberg from a manuscript before it was printed. Josef Loritz performed songs including Glückes genug op. 37 no. 3 in December 1900 at a song recital he had organised at the “Bayerischer Hof” in Munich, and elsewhere. Also in 1900, the first reviews of the songs up to op. 43 appeared, which were largely positive. For the critic of the Musikalisches Wochenblatt, Eugen Segnitz, Reger was already “a predestined lieder singer”, who had “the whole gamut of lyrical expressive capabilities” at his disposal. He characterised the song "Frauenhaar" op. 37 no. 4 in the words: “A powerful blaze of passion, an ecstasy of happiness enjoyed, which, constantly resonating in gentle vibrations, never wants to end”. (Review) As preceding citation. The special features of the vocal part were also discussed, which was repeatedly described as “strange”, especially as “even the most distant echoes of familiar melodic expressions” were avoided. (Review from anon. in Neue Musik-Zeitung) The piano part was often seen as an “effective counterpart to the voice” (Ibid.) because of its striking independence, and criticism of its complexity and its recurring structural patterns, which were perceived as monochrome , was also sparked.14
Reger laid the basis for a more lasting reception of his songs after his move to Munich in September 1901. Just a month later he appeared as piano accompanist to Loritz in a song recital in the Museum Room of the Palais Portia. At this, three numbers from his opp. 51 and 55 as well as songs by Anton Beer-Walbrunn and Ludwig Thuille, both professors at the Munich Akademie der Tonkunst, were performed. Numerous other concert performances in the Museum and in the “Bayerischer Hof” Hotel followed. In these, in strategic fashion, he always “confronted” 15 songs by composers of the so-called Munich School (Thuille, Max Schillings, Ernst Boehe etc.), characterized by their restrained modernism, with a small selection of his own new works. In this way he “invited a comparison with his own songs”, particularly since in his choice, he always took care to select “one of the extremely wild, naturalistic” songs, “but also tender mood paintings”.16 At this time Reger acquired the reputation of an excellent, sensitive piano accompanist. As well as Loritz, from 1902 he also worked with singers including the tenors Ludwig Hess and Franz Bergen, and a little later the alto Iduna Walter-Choinanus and soprano Susanne Dessoir. Comparing his songs with contributions by contemporaries, the Munich critics repeatedly emphasized the atypical and contrary generic character of Reger’s works, sometimes relating this to the composer’s personality. Thus a reviewer writing in the Munich Illustriertes Salonblatt found the provocative-confessional setting of Jacobowski’s Der Narr op. 55 no. 5 to be a “clearly revealed construct of the unique nature of this volcanic genius”. (Review of the concert on 7 April 1902 in the “Bayerischer Hof”) Reger had understood the poem to be a general charge against philistines ignorant of art, and included it in his core repertoire as a song accompanist. Referring to the songs Schmied Schmerz and Frühlingsmorgen op. 51 nos. 6 and 11, the critic of the Allgemeinen Zeitung München (probably Theodor Kroyer) spoke of “incredible strange creations” and pointedly summarised: “For the “song rabble” they are of course nothing.” (Review of the concert on 4 January 1902 in the Palais Portia)
From about 1902 onwards the songs Reger had composed in Weiden increasingly featured in detailed collective reviews in music journals. In the Allgemeinen Musik-Zeitung Heinrich Lang noted a development between opp. 51 and 55 towards a less overladen musical language and demonstratively contrasted the complex structures of the first collection (“so much counterpoint, so much harmonic and rhythmic ‘secession’ and such an absurdly difficult piano accompaniment simply does not go with the concept of ‘song’”) with the melodically approachable Viola d’amour op. 55 no. 11 as an ideal (“that is the most deeply-felt language of the soul, that is music, in the words of the most sacred meaning!” (Review). In his article published in Die Gesellschaft, Karl Straube, Reger’s friend and main performer of his organ works, also interpreted the op. 51 songs as the artistic result of “Reger’s difficult German nature” and described the “sensory and supersensory nature of these songs, which find their artistic expression in the harmonic exuberance, now almost stammering, now overflowing and sentimental in the declamation of the melodic lines in wide-ranging melismas”, whereas in op. 55, he now recognized “a healthy naturalness of feeling in contrast with the hyper-symbolism of the earlier songs”. (Ibid.)
How much Reger’s song output polarised the musical public is revealed in the paper “Max Reger als Liederkomponist” by Richard Batka, the music editor of Der Kunstwart, in the periodical Deutsche Gesangskunst. The implicit accusation in some earlier reviews of an artifically forced, mathematically calculated atmosphere is openly voiced in this article, referring to opp. 51 and 55. On Wiegenlied op. 51 no. 3 Batka commented sarcastically: “Is it not dreadful? Will the poor child not be seasick with this ‘quasi vivacissimo’ triplet rhythm, will it not be frightened by these harmonic grimaces, or driven mad by the pained singing of its mother?” As well as this, he declared the vocal part of the song to be the “result of arithmetic”, the “voice by the grace of the piano” and reckoned that “if this kind of composing were to become so fashionable that singers believed they had to go along with it, it would ruin our far-from-ideal state of singing completely.” Batka’s harsh invective attracted the attention of the Munich poet and music writer Richard Braungart, who was known to Reger and was the poet of the song Ein Paar op. 55 no. 9. Braungart criticized Batka’s lack of willingness and ability to countenance new sounds17 and argued in favor of Reger, ultimately with reference to the difference between melodic song and the genre of declamatory song which was influential for Reger: “But with declamatory song, the voice never appears on its own, but always gains life and expressive power in the most intimate connection with the accompaniment (inadequate word!). Thus Reger, like other modern composers, cannot be criticized for this fact; because for them it is the (one could almost say: homophonic) polyphony of the human voice and of the piano part which gives the whole song the full melody, and it is in the inseparable combination of these two factors that the tremendous expressive power of such music lies.” (Ibid.)
After Reger had given concerts with Josef Loritz several times further afield since 1901 (including in Nördlingen, Frankfurt-am-Main, and Krefeld), in February/March 1903 he ventured to organize two purely Reger song recitals with Ludwig Hess in Leipzig (“Hôtel de Prusse”) and Berlin (Beethoven-Saal), followed later by a Reger- Wolf evening with Franz Bergen in Leipzig. The program of the two identical Reger evenings contained a total of 16 songs from opp. 37 to 55 composed in Weiden, as well as the collections opp. 62, 66, 68 and 70 , composed in Munich 18, which covered the entire spectrum of Reger’s song output – from melodic songs such as Glückes genug op. 37 no. 3 and Viola d’amour op. 55 no. 11 to expressive declamatory songs such as Schmied Schmerz op. 51 no. 6 and Wehe! op. 62 no. 1. The Berlin critics in particular regarded the songs as scandalous and an attack on good taste, used the cliché of musical “unnaturalness” 19 almost unanimously, and outbid each other with garish descriptions for the musically repulsive: thus the chronicler of the Staatsbürgerzeitung conjectured that “such shrieking […] such falsetto whimpering can give the listeners bad nerves” (Review from F. Hoyer), Max Marschalk (Vossische Zeitung) spoke of “a difficult affliction” (Review), and the organist and composer Heinrich Reimann, who had written a detailed appreciation of Reger’s first opus in 1893, diagnosed “stylistic violence and monstrosities in pseudo-polyphony” (Review in Das kleine Journal) The few balanced judgements amongst the great ranks of critics, who had to review George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt in the Philharmonie the same evening, and therefore had to go “from Handel to Reger and from Reger back to Handel” in the interval, thereby travelling between different sound worlds20, included the account by Hugo Leichtentritt in the Allgemeinen Musik-Zeitung. Leichtentritt detected “on the one hand the most subtly refined harmony, on the other ruthlessly harsh and violent” and interpreted the avoidance of singable melody not as a deficiency, but as a conscious characteristic: “At any rate it was interesting and instructive for me to note that I did not find this neglect of melody in some songs to be entirely trivial, nor the artistic effect belittling.” (Review)21 In similar fashion, Ernst Günther had also detected a turning point in Reger’s vocal output in his review of the song opuses 35 to 62, beginning with the Eight Songs op. 43, in which “everything simple or folk song-like was stripped away”. On the occasion of Reger’s move to the musical center Munich he finally posed the question: “Will he become more malleable, more approachable, more urbane? I don’t believe so. May he just continue in the tone he struck in op. 55. We must rise to his level, he should not descend to ours”. (“Max Reger als Liedercomponist”, in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik)
The third volume in the Songs and Choral Works Series contains in chronological order the songs Max Reger composed between December 1900 and February 1903. These are works from his Munich period, although a few had been begun earlier in Weiden (see op. 79c).
- Compositions op. 79c (1900-1901)
- Tragt, blaue Träume… WoO VII/31 (1901)
- Ostern WoO VII/32 (1901–1902)
- Sixteen Songs op. 62 (1901–1902)
- Schlummerlied WoO VII/33 (1902)
- Twelve Songs op. 66 (1902)
- Six Songs op. 68 (1902)
- Seventeen Songs op. 70 (1903)
- Nun kommt die Nacht gegangen WoO VII/35 (1903)
2.1. Biographical context
Following Reger’s successful first performance of his Violin Sonata op. 41 with Josef Hösl in Munich in December 1900, and several organ recitals by Karl Straube were very favorably reviewed in the press, his desire to leave the confines of Weiden, increasingly perceived as restrictive, for the cultural metropolis matured. And so on 1 September 1901 Reger moved with his parents and his sister to München-Haidhausen. In Munich he was soon able to make a name as a song accompanist. His sensitive, translucent and nuanced piano playing and his ability to offer singers a perfect support through a precisely-balanced mixture of blending in and leading, was generally widely praised.22 For his plans for a career starting out from Munich, the city offered the opportunity for Reger to present his double talents as composer and pianist, and particularly to push ahead with composing in the genre which enjoyed the greatest popularity with the public at that time and promised excellent marketing opportunities – that of song.23 With the tenors Josef Loritz and Ludwig Hess in particular, he found performing partners with whom he could give concerts of his songs in Munich, Leipzig, and Berlin, events which attracted a great deal of notice.
At first Reger had no connections in Munich either with institutions or socially. To cover his living costs, in addition to teaching private pupils he was dependent on concert fees and publishing royalites. Above all, as an incomer from the upper Palatine prov- ince, he had to assert himself against the establishment and create his own network of contacts. Directly after moving he made contact with important personalities in Munich musical life, such as Max Schillings, a committee member of the Allgemeinen deutschen Musikvereins (ADMV), with a request to help him secure opportunities of performing at music festivals and elsewhere. The relationship with Schillings remained problematic, especially since Schillings had certain reservations about Reger’s music because of its complexity.24 In general Reger had singled out the members of the “Munich School” around Schilling’s teacher Ludwig Thuille, the influential composition professor at the Akademie der Tonkunst,25 as his adversaries. In his concerts he lost no opportunity to perpetuate artistic conflict through the targeted juxtaposition of songs, and was accordingly perceived in the press as a musical “secessionist” (Wilhelm Kienzl, music review of Opus 66). By 1903 Reger himself also felt personally excluded from the circle of colleagues.26
At a Munich song recital in February 1902 Reger met Elsa von Bercken again, who had rejected him in 1899. With the security of a new publishing contract with Jos. Aibl and confidence in his productivity, Reger was now able to renew his courtship and guar- antee his future wife the financial security she desired. On 25 Oc- tober the civil marriage ceremony took place in Munich, and the church wedding (a Protestant ceremony) followed on 7 December in Bad Boll near Göppingen.
By early summer 1902 Reger was unhappy with the collaboration with Aibl, explored new publishing opportunities and at the end of 1902, signed an exclusive contract with the newly-founded publisher Lauterbach & Kuhn in Leipzig, who had already pub- lished his songs opp. 66 and 68. The initial euphoria on the part of the emerging publisher, who saw the ambitious Reger as an investment in the future, was quickly followed by disillusionment on both sides. For the songs which Reger offered the publisher as first works were of enormous modernity and disturbing originality, and so in no way corresponded with the economic calculations they had made.
The ninth volume in the Songs and Choral Works Series contains, in chronological order, the works Max Reger composed between 1904 and 1914 for unaccompanied mixed voice choir.
- Vier Kirchengesänge WoO VI/20
- Motette »Mein Odem ist schwach« op. 110 Nr. 1
- Vater unser WoO VI/22
- Motette »Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht!« op. 110 Nr. 2
- Responsories WoO VI/23
- Lasset uns den Herrn preisen WoO VI/24
- Motette »O Tod, wie bitter bist du« op. 110 Nr. 3
- Good Night WoO VI/25
- Zwölf Chöre aus dem Volksliederbuch WoO VI/26
- Abschiedslied WoO VI/27
- Acht geistliche Gesänge op. 138
The piano reductions made by Reger of his own choral works with orchestral accompaniment were probably only intended for rehearsal and not as an alternative scoring for performance or as a version of equal value. At any rate no information from Reger survives which indicates a possible or planned performance with piano.27
In the sections where the choir is accompanied by the orchestra, Reger’s approach to arranging fluctuates between providing a reduction of the orchestral writing and doubling the choral writing. In the preludes, interludes and postludes, as well as in the passages with the choir, notes are found in the piano part which are not found in the orchestral writing and occasionally contradict with the choral writing.28 Reger also occasionally altered the slurring for the piano part.29 The differentiated dynamic marking of the orchestral writing was reduced to a practical compromise.
In the choral writing in the piano reductions there are occasionally differences from the original score, the reason for which is not obvious (see particularly Opus 71). On the other hand, alterations made in the choral writing during the proof-reading process are often not found in the piano writing (opp. 106, 112); where possible, these have been incorporated in the RWA. In addition, the orchestral score, of which the piano reduction is an extract, has a special significance for the edition in clarifying problematic passages.
A unique case is the Weihegesang WoO V/6. Reger did not prepare a complete reduction of the work, just excerpts for the solo alto and the choir, which are limited to the most essential in that they basically only take the respective sections into consideration. In the reduction for the choir, in addition in the piano just the preludes, interludes and postludes for the orchestra are reproduced, whereas the piano should probably play colla parte with the chorus parts. The orchestral passages in both reductions are also not identical throughout with regard to the notes and performance instructions. There is therefore no authentic piano reduction for the Weihegesang. The reduction included in the RWA has taken into account both of Reger’s manuscripts, which were never intended for publication.
The eleventh volume in the Songs and Choral Works Series contains, in chronological order, the %%%
Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.
Module II – Introductions, in: Reger-Werkausgabe, www.reger-werkausgabe.de/introductions-module-ii.html, last check: 3rd October 2022.
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