Six Songs op. 4

for medium voice and piano

  • No. 1 Gebet

    Text: Friedrich Hebbel

  • No. 2 Widmung

    Text: Friedrich Rückert

  • No. 3 Winterahnung

    Text: Friedrich Rückert

  • No. 4 Im April

    Text: Emanuel Geibel

  • No. 5 Der zerrissne Grabkranz

    Text: Friedrich Hermann Frey

  • No. 6 Bitte!

    Text: unknown

Frau Dr. Riemann dankbarst gewidmet

Performance medium
Middle voice; Piano

Work collection
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Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. II/1: Lieder I, S. 7–22.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner-Grage.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlags- und Plattennummer: CV 52.808.
Erscheinungsdatum Juni 2017.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2017 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.808.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-17140-7.
ISBN 978-3-89948-268-3.

1. Composition

The exact dates of composition of the Six Songs op. 4 are not known. Adalbert Lindner reported that Reger composed “a series of songs” at the same time as the opp. 1 to 3 which he wrote between spring 1891 and summer 1892, “which were published by Augener in 1893 and 1894 with the numbers Op. 4 and 8” 1
Opus 4 no. 1 Gebet, however, was written earlier. According to Lindner it belongs to the “first songs written earlier at home” 2, and Reger too emphasized in 1902 to his new publisher Lauterbach & Kuhn, ““Gebet” is my 1st song” which I wrote at the age of 17!” (letter). The student works which remained unpublished (WoO VII/1–13) were not mentioned.

The surviving sources support Lindner’s account. Whilst nos. 2–6 exist in two copies written as continuous manuscripts made by Reger in summer 1892, Gebet exists in the manuscript engraver’s copy and in two bundles of Josef Reger’s manuscript pages: a double folio with WoO VII/5–6 and a volume with WoO VII/10–12 (for information on the dating of the unpublished songs, see WoO VII/1–13). The two copies made by his father differ in details, which might indicate that Gebet was composed at the family home at Weiden and that Josef Reger had an insight into the revision stages of the composition.3 In the engraver’s copy, Gebet has been transposed from D flat to B flat major and numerous details changed compared with Josef Reger’s earlier copies.

A visit by the publisher George Augener to Hugo Riemann’s house4 may have given the impulse for the song collection Opus 4 in early summer 1892. According to Adalbert Lindner, Augener is said to have been looking for a young, unknown composer for his publishing house to promote; Riemann recommended Reger and gave him the opportunity to perform his own works for Augener. Although the works Reger presented are not specified in the relevant accounts, except for the Violin Sonata in D minor op. 1, it is possible that Elisabeth Riemann might have sung songs with Reger at the piano.5 It is not clear whether the songs Widmung, Winterahnung, Im April, Der zerrissne Grabkranz and Bitte! existed as single pieces at this point; however it is very unlikely that they existed as a unified collection.6

The title pages and the engraver’s copy (nos. 2–6) as well as the dedication copy (nos. 2–6) for Elisabeth Riemann identify the collection of what was initially “Fünf Lieder für eine mittlere Stimme” (Five songs for medium voice) as Opus 4, and were therefore arranged after the meeting with Augener and with a view to forthcoming publication.7 A comparison of variant readings leads us to suppose that Reger first prepared the engraver’s copy and copied the dedication copy later on (see the Evaluation of the sources). Only after handing in the collection did Reger decide to place Gebet first. Whilst the addition was not made in the dedication copy, the title of the engraver’s copy was correspondingly altered by the publisher’s editor from “Fünf Lieder/Five Songs” to “Sechs Lieder/Six Songs”.

As early as 8 August 1892 Elisabeth Riemann and Reger performed four of the songs – they already had their opus number – for the first time in public in a concert at the Conservatoire. The engraver’s copy may have been in London at this time; alongside the dedication copy for Elisabeth Riemann, Reger may have used older manuscripts at the piano for performance.

Composition · Publication · Early reception

2. Publication

On 30 July 1892 George Augener’s son William, director of the publisher’s music engravers, met Reger in Wiesbaden to discuss “a few details regarding the preparation of my works for print” (“so einige Kleinigkeiten betreff der Drucklegung meiner Werke”, letter). It is conceivable that on this occasion Reger handed over the engraver’s copy of no. 1, whilst the engraver’s copies of nos. 2–6 might already have been ready in London at this point.8 In both manuscripts the performance instructions were still written in black ink, which leads to the conclusion that they were prepared before the engraver’s copy of the Chöre op. 6 was submitted on 2 August; in this, Reger for the first time used what was to become his usual procedure from then onwards – of entering the performance instructions in red, thereby distinguishing them from the rest of the music text (see rote Tinte).
The preparation of works for print took some time, for the publisher decided on a first edition in two languages with English text. A first translation was entered in the engraver’s copy and subsequently crossed out; only with the second translation by C. Hugo Laubach was the manuscript then sent for engraving. There is no record of when Reger received the proofs of the collection or when he returned them. His suggestion that Augener wanted to “proceed strictly in opus number order” (»streng nach opuszahl vorgehen«, letter) with publication might refer to an advanced stage of corrections in December 1892. In April/May 1893 the songs and choral works opp. 4 and 6 appeared as a kind of second tranche of Reger’s works – with, from op. 1 onwards, an updated collective title, but without the Cello Sonata op. 5 which Reger so strongly recommended.9

When Augener & Co. was bought up by the publisher B. Schott’s Söhne in 1910, Reger contacted the publishing director Willy Strecker, distanced himself from his “youthful follies” (particularly from the piano pieces), but expressly made an exception for the songs, his opp. 1–3 and 10 and the Suite in E minor for organ op. 16 (letter dated 29 April 1910). In September 1910 reissues of opp. 4, 8, 12, 14b, and 15 were published.

Composition · Publication · Early reception


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Lindner 1938, p. 100.
Ibid. Contrary to Lindner’s description that Gebet was written before Reger’s student days, Philomena Reger (see Liedtexte-Abschrift) dates the song to 1891.
After the beginning of Reger’s studies with Hugo Riemann in April 1890, it was most likely the summer holidays of 1890 and then the holidays in August/September 1891 when this might have taken place (see note 2).
See Georg Behrmann, Erinnerungen an Max Reger. 1890–1893, ca. 1953, in MIMRG no. 6 (2003), p. 10 and Lindner 1938, p. 123f.
There is evidence from November 1890 that Elisabeth Riemann occasionally sang songs by Reger (see Reger’s letter to Lindner).
In Riemann’s testimonial for the one-year voluntary military service of April 1892 no song collections are listed, rather there is general mention of “a series of successful larger works (two violin sonatas, a trio, etc.)” (in Der junge Reger, p. 116).
The opus number should be regarded as an indication of the imminent printing of the work: Reger always referred to opp. 1 to 3 without numbering in his correspondence too until their publication was planned.
When precisely the two manuscripts were submitted is not known. In Reger’s letter dated 14 August to George Augener there is mention of the accounting of the first six opp.
Although the exact date of the publication of the songs and choral works is not documented and also not listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichte, in mid-May 1893 Heinrich Reimann thanked Hugo Riemann for the copies of Reger’s compositions he had sent; according to his subsequent review in the AMZ he had received opp. 1–4 and 6.

1. Reception

No review of the first performance on 8 August 1892 at the Conservatoire in Wiesbaden (see Composition) has survived.
Three of the six songs, Winterahnung, Der zerrissne Grabkranz and Bitte! were heard – with Waldlied and Thränen im Auge from op. 8 and Gruß from op. 12 – a year and a half later again at the first Berlin “Reger-Abend” (see Introduction). Whilst the reviewer of the Vossische Zeitung recognized and remarked upon “characteristic features and a warm feeling”, he would additionally have liked to encounter “alongside the serious, melancholic songs also something cheerful, graceful” (review) and Otto Leßmann in the Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung criticized “their unwieldy melodic structure, formed like Brahms’s” (review).

Shortly after their first publication the songs received their first notice in a review by Heinrich Reimann (see Introduction): “The dark atmosphere predominates and with it the brooding, the reflective. The accompaniment is quite typical and executed with great refinement. The scansion, however, is interrupted several times by gaps which are too long [...]; the accompaniment of the piano developing ideas further lightens this, but does not entirely eradicate this unsatisfactory state of affairs.” (Review)

Composition · Publication · Early reception


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

1. Stemma

Die in Klammern gesetzten Quellen sind verschollen.
Die in Klammern gesetzten Quellen sind verschollen.

2. Quellenbewertung

2.1. Nr. 1

Die Stichvorlage der Nr. 1 stellt nicht die Erstschrift des Liedes dar; es muss ihr zumindest ein Autograph einer Fassung in Des-dur vorangegangen sein, auf das sich die Abschriften Josef Regers (I, II) beziehen.1 Ob die Stichvorlage eigens für den Druck erstellt wurde oder bereits vorlag, als sich Reger wohl im August/September 1892 entschied, das Lied der Sammlung als Nr. 1 voranzustellen, ist unklar (vgl. Entstehung).
Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle der Erstdruck zugrunde.

2.2. Nr. 2–6

Die Stichvorlage der Nr. 2–6 erstellte Reger im Juni/Juli 1892 für den Druck. Auch ihr müssen ein oder mehrere Autographe vorangegangen sein, die heute nicht mehr erhalten sind (mutmaßlich lagen die Lieder bis dato in Einzelmanuskripten vor). Das Widmungsexemplar für Elisabeth Riemann dürfte Reger später von den gemeinsamen Vorlagen abgeschrieben haben. Obwohl dieses Manuskript nicht für eine Veröffentlichung gedacht war, hat Reger es doch ausgesprochen sorgfältig ausgeführt – immerhin war es für die Frau seines Lehrers bestimmt und diente als Material der Uraufführung am 8. August 1892. Neben insgesamt ausführlicheren Dynamik- und Phrasierungsangaben weist es an einigen Stellen auch konzeptionelle Überarbeitungen auf, die als bewusste Verbesserungen anzusehen sind. Dass diese gleichwohl zumeist nicht in den Erstdruck übernommen wurden, könnte mit dem durch das Einholen zweier Übersetzungen verzögerten Drucklegungsprozess und der gegenüber dem Verlag nicht gefestigten Stellung Regers zusammenhängen – denn die Drucklegung der ersten Opera gestaltete sich schwierig (vgl. Brief).
Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle das Widmungsexemplar (Zweitschrift) zugrunde.

3. Sources

  • Stichvorlage der Nr. 1
  • Stichvorlage der Nr. 2–6
  • Widmungsexemplar für Elsiabeth Riemann (Zweitschrift)
  • Erstdruck
  • Abschrift von Josef Reger
  • Abschrift von Josef Reger (Fragment)

Die beiden Abschriften des Vaters unterscheiden sich in Details.
Weiterlesen in der RWA

Object reference

Max Reger: Six Songs op. 4, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 3rd June 2023.


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