Five Songs op. 12

for high voice and piano

  • No. 1 Friedhofsgang

    Text: August Albert Theodor Kleinschmidt

  • No. 2 Das arme Vögelein

    Text: Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg

  • No. 3 Wenn ich's nur wüsst!

    Text: Hanna Ehlen

  • No. 4 Gruß

    Text: Otto Michaeli

  • No. 5 Um dich

    Text: Isolde Kurz

Den Manen Franz Schubert's

Performance medium
High voice;

Work collection
  • -
Original work
  • -
  • -


Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. II/1: Lieder I, S. 40–52.
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

In summer 1893, soon after the Five Songs op. 8 were submitted to the publisher (see Opus 8, Publication), Reger turned to the Five Songs op. 12: on 25 September, a week after his return from his summer holidays in Weiden, Reger wrote the date of completion at the end of the engraver’s copy in Wiesbaden. This manuscript was apparently not preceded by any other fair copies. The sequence of sources and therefore the process of composing Opus 12 differs fundamentally in this respect from the findings about the earlier works, particularly the song collection of op. 4. As well as that, it is notable that Opus 12 is based largely on contemporary texts for the first time. According to Otto Michaeli, the poet of no. 4 Gruß, Reger found inspiration in the section Texte für Liederkomponisten in the Neue Musik-Zeitung, which he consulted at Adalbert Lindner’s during the holidays.1 The unusual manuscript paper used, not so practical for song composition, also suggests that he began composing in Weiden.2

Composition · Publication · Early reception

2. Publication

Reger may have submitted the engraver’s copy soon after completing the work in September 1893. No letters or proofs documenting the sequence of preparing the works for print have survived. The English translations of the texts have not been entered in the engraver’s copy; Augener presumably submitted the manuscript for engraving straight away (see Opus 8). At best the announcement that he wanted to send the singer Maria Schmidt-Köhne “3 completely new” songs complementing Opus 8 in the last week of December (letter), may refer to the proofs which were with Reger over Christmas, from which he might have had copies made. The Berlin premiere of no. 4 Gruß on 14 February 1894 must have been given from the manuscript or from a copy. In the Hofmeister Monatsberichte for that year, Opus 12 is not listed, although a first review appeared on 1 April 1894 in The Monthly Musical Record.

The dedication of the Five Songs to the “Manen Franz Schuberts” (the spirit of Schubert) expresses not only his admiration, but also his greater independence achieved with Opus 12 and his increasing self-confidence.

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.

Michaeli reports that he drew Lindner’s attention to this column later, following which Lindner wrote to him: “Our master was then indeed constantly on the search for usable song texts. During the summer holidays 1893 he probably flicked through the 16 issues for the year which I had and marked what appealed to him.” (In Otto Michaeli, Wer ist der Textdichter von Regers „Schelm“? Eine Umfrage.)
The music text of the engraver’s copy is written on narrow 16-stave music paper, whereas Reger used 12-stave song manuscript paper with pre-printed brackets for the cover, which he also used for opp. 4, 8, 14b, and 15.

1. Reception

By comparison with the review of Opus 8 two months earlier in the same journal, critical tones now predominated in The Monthly Musical Record. The effects achieved by the complex harmony were “in inverse proportion to the means”, the vocal part “scarcely a grateful one for the singer”, the accompaniment was interesting, but “somewhat tourmenté”. The reviewer criticized an “excess of elaboration” and concluded his noticeable displeasure in the challenge: “Will the clever composer turn from his elaborate ways and win the favour of vocalists, also of humble, though necessary, accompanists?” (Review)
In the Allgemeinen Musik-Zeitung Paul Moos emphasized Reger’s choice of modern texts – “Max Reger demonstrates, in his choice of delightful texts by Uhland, Wildenbruch, Isolde Kurz, and others as having an outstandingly sensitive and subtle nature. Only once did he take refuge in sentimentality” –, however the reviewer also took the opportunity to criticize, which ultimately revealed itself as taking sides: “The bombastic style with which Reger has set these texts to music is all the more surprising. Does the composer really believe that he has given adequate expression to the poetic moods in his compositions? Without any doubt Reger is under some kind of spell. But it would be hard to discern whose spell he is under from the songs alone. At the end, however, Brahms. […] The spectre of commonness and triviality stands evidently threatening before the composer’s inner eye; in order to escape this, he runs away, as far as he can”. (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

Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle der Erstdruck zugrunde, der aus verlagspolitischen Gründen mit englischen Übersetzungen erschien. Als zusätzliche Quelle wurde die autographe Stichvorlage herangezogen.

3. Sources

  • Stichvorlage
  • Erstdruck

Weiterlesen in der RWA

Object reference

Max Reger: Five Songs op. 12, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 3rd June 2023.


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