Zwei Choralphantasien op. 40

Fantasia on the Chorale “Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern” op. 40 No. 1

for organ

  • I. “Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern”
Seiner Hochwürden Herrn Professor D. Friedrich Spitta hochachtungsvollst zugeeignet

Performance medium

Work collection
Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. I/1: Choralphantasien, S. 40–60.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.801.
Erscheinungsdatum Februar 2010.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2010 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.801.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.

Fantasia on the Chorale “Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern”

Text template
First edition

Template edition

Copy shown in RWA: DE, Karlsruhe, Max-Reger-Institut/Elsa-Reger-Stiftung.


Note: Als Textvorlage nutzte Reger vermutlich das Gesangbuch für die evangelisch-lutherische Kirche in Bayern von 1897 (oder eine frühere Ausgabe). Den Choral kürzte er um insgesamt zwei Strophen (den zweiten Teil der vierten, den Anfang der fünften sowie die abschließende siebte Strophe).

1. Composition and Publication

Composition, german versions: op. 40 no. 1, no. 2
Publication, german version: op. 40

1899 Reger returned to the genre again with “Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern” op. 40 no. 1. According to Karl Straube, with this work, he was consciously setting out to compete with Heinrich Reimann and his work of the same name.1 On 26 September 1899 Reger described the fantasia as “finished” and already “practically tried out”, all that remained to be done was “to write out a clean copy” 2. He gave the date of completion on the copy, which became the engraver’s copy, as 2 October 1899.3 Shortly afterwards, he sent the first copy to Straube, who gave the premiere of the work on 24 October 1899 in Wesel from this manuscript.

At Straube’s suggestion, Reger composed a new version of the third verse (see the Kritischer Bericht): “In the first version of his fantasia Reger had […] placed the chorale melody in the pedal during the second verse and above this, set a particularly meaningless harmonic sequence in three parts. I wrote to him from Wesel […] giving him my opinion, and at the same time made the suggestion of including a melismatically-led variation.” 4 This new version must have been available to Straube – before or after its inclusion in the engraver’s copy – as he made a copy which is recognizably based on Reger’s manuscript.

Reger cannot have thought of expanding op. 40 by adding a second fantasia until late November, for in a letter dated 20 November he still described “Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern” alone as op. 40.5 He then composed the Chorale fantasia “Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn!” op. 40 No. 2 within about a week; he gave the date of completion on the Erstschrift of 29 November 1899.


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Straube later assessed the situation: “This piece was written in order to outdo Heinrich Reimann’s fantasia on the same chorale. Max was mad at Heinrich, who had dismissed his first attempts at goodwill and treated him in an unfriendly way, left all letters unanswered, which hurt the younger man and was reciprocated by him with resentment.” (Letter dated 20 November 1944 to Hans Klotz).
Postcard dated 26 September 1899 to Adalbert Lindner. It is unclear what is meant at this point, that the work is “finished,” but a “clean copy” still needs to be written out; it is conceivable it means each stage between completing the sketch and beginning making a fair copy.
However, this date does not mark the final completion of the copy, for the following day Reger was still involved in transcribing the work “definitively into a clean copy” (Letter dated 3 October 1899 to Alexander Wilhelm Gottschalg), which could relate to corrections or entries with red ink (see Reger’s working methods).
Straube’s letter dated 28 June 1944 to Hans Klotz, in Briefe eines Thomaskantors, p. 235.
See letter dated 20 November 1899 to Theodor Helm, in Der junge Reger, p. 465.

1. Reception

At present, there are no records of performances in Reger's time.

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. Als zusätzliche Quellen wurden Regers autographe Stichvorlage und auch die Erstschrift herangezogen, die er Karl Straube geschenkt hatte. Reger änderte nach Abschluss der Komposition auf Anraten Straubes die dritte Choralstrophe. Eine edierte Form dieses Abschnitts in seiner ursprünglichen Fassung ist als Anhang auf der DVD zu Band I/1 beigegeben und als PDF abrufbar.

3. Sources

    Object reference

    Max Reger: Fantasia on the Chorale “Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern” op. 40 No. 1, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 18th May 2024.


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