Twelve Songs op. 51

for high or medium voice and piano

  • No. 1 Der Mond glüht…

    Text: Franz Diederich

  • No. 10 Verlorne Liebe

    Text: Eugenie Galli

  • No. 11 Frühlingsmorgen

    Text: Clara Müller

  • No. 12 Weiße Tauben

    Text: Christian Morgenstern

  • No. 2 Mägdleins Frage

    Text: C. Dorr-Ljubljaschtschi

  • No. 3 Träume, träume, du mein süßes Leben! Wiegenlied

    Text: Richard Dehmel

  • No. 4 Geheimnis

    Text: Franz Evers

  • No. 5 Mädchenlied

    Text: Christian Morgenstern

  • No. 6 Schmied Schmerz

    Text: Otto Julius Bierbaum

  • No. 7 Nachtgang

    Text: Otto Julius Bierbaum

  • No. 8 Gleich einer versunkenen Melodie…

    Text: Christian Morgenstern

  • No. 9 Frühlingsregen

    Text: Christian Morgenstern

Komponiert in Weiden, August 1900
Hugo Wolf

Performance medium
No.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: High voice, Piano; No.7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: Middle voice, Piano

Work collection
  • -
Original work
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  • -


Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. II/2: Lieder II, S. 86–123.
Herausgeber Stefan König, Dennis Ried.
Unter Mitarbeit von Alexander Becker, Nikolaos Beer und Christopher Grafschmidt.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlags- und Plattennummer: CV 52.809.
Erscheinungsdatum Oktober 2021.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2021 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.809.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-24652-5.
ISBN 978-3-89948-404-5.

1. Composition

On 14 July 1900 Reger divulged his next plans for composition to the Bielefeld City Music Director Wilhelm Lamping. He planned to complete the works »by the beginning of September«: »now I have a whole range of quite wonderful texts for songs (as op. 51)«. (Letter) He turned to the composition by the following month at the latest, and evidently made rapid progress on it: “»I have written 10 new songs over the last days!«”, he reported to the organist Richard Jung on 22 August (Postcard); the only two dates of completion in the collection which ultimately became Twelve Songs (at the end of no. 3 Träume, träume, du mein süßes Leben! and no. 12 Weiße Tauben) both give 20 August, attesting to the great speed of composition. On 30 August Reger described his op. 51 as »fix u. fertig! [well & truly finished]« to the church musician Andreas Hofmeier. ( Letter)

The texts which Reger set, again exclusively contemporary, included four poems from Christian Morgenstern’s collection Ich und die Welt of 1898 (nos. 5, 8, 9, 12), and he found four further texts in the arts periodical Die Gesellschaft (nos. 1, 3, 10, and 11).

2. Publication

Reger finally submitted the engraver’s copies of opp. 49–53 and WoO VII/30 created over the summer to the publisher Jos. Aibl on 21 October 1900. (See letter dated 22 October 1900 to Caesar Hochstetter) On 4 November he signed the copyright agreement and the confirmation of the overall royalty of 1200 marks. The proof-reading and printing processes are not documented; on 13 April 1901 Reger was able to send the Munich music critic Theodor Kroyer a gratis copy of the first printed edition. (See letter) A few days later he explained his maxim as a song composer to Kroyer: “as characteristic as possible yet with an absolute ideal of beauty!” (Letter dated 18 April 1901)

As well as Kroyer, Josef Loritz was also presented with a copy of the “songs suitable for male voice” from the new work and encouraged by Reger: “I ask you to look through these carefully! Especially ‘Schmied Schmerz!’ [no. 6] So, study them closely!” (Postcard dated 14 April 1901) But as the range of the song, to a1, was too high for the baritone, Reger offered the singer a transposition made by himself1, which he ultimately promised to make “in 2 copies into F sharp minor”. (see postcard dated june 24) Whilst nothing is known about the whereabouts of these manuscripts, an autograph transcription of this song from G minor to E minor as well as of Frühlingsmorgen (no. 11) from D major to D flat major survive. These were owned by Ludwig Hess, who had performed both songs with Reger at the beginning of January 1902 in Munich and in February/March 1903 in Leipzig and Berlin (see Early reception), and had probably requested the transcriptions in this context.2

On 14 January 1901, whilst op. 51 was still in preparation, Reger had told Otto Leßmann, the editor of the Allgemeinen Musik-Zeitung, he would search out “a simple song of 2 pages […] after publication” as a suitable periodical insert. (Letter) Reger subsequently returned to his request several times3 and ultimately suggested Gleich einer versunkenen Melodie … (no. 8). (see letter dated 17 May 1901) The insert, engraved based on the first printed edition, was published on 4 October in the Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung by “kind permission” of the original publisher Jos. Aibl.

The Twelve Songs were dedicated to Hugo Wolf, whose output of songs Reger had studied longer and more intensively following the end of his time in Wiesbaden. This increasing artistic orientation in the Weiden years went hand-in-hand with a feeling of personal affinity: at this time Reger also strongly identified with the older composer and his tragic story. His article “Hugo Wolfs künstlerischer Nachlass” %[Link] was published in 1904, a year after Wolf’s death in a sanatorium. It was intended to serve as a passionate riposte to contemporaries who had posthumously elevated Wolf to fashionable status, but who had mocked him or remained silent during his lifetime. Reger’s aspiration can be read as autobiographical, that “this unworldly, deeply introverted tone poet” would remain enduringly present in musical life and that “all the indescribable injustice with which Hugo Wolf’s thorny path through life was so edifyingly crowned [would] finally be made good again in the spirit (“Manen”) of the unhappy composer to an abundant extent”4. Reger himself made a considerable contribution towards establishing Wolf’s works in musical life: in concert halls he gradually performed an increasing repertoire of Wolf songs, and in addition he made arrangements and took on time-consuming editorial work.5


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

“If ‘Schmied Schmerz’ is too high, then please let me know which key I should transpose it into! (in 2 copies!) Then in mid-June I will have time to do this! It is a lovely thing, that ‘Schmied Schmerz’!” (Letter dated 5 May 1901)
Surprisingly there are no markings in the manuscript.
On 20 March Reger once again announced to Leßmann, »a few nos to suggest for closer consideration with a view to reprint or insert in your highly esteemed periodical« (Letter).
Max Reger, “Hugo Wolfs künstlerischer Nachlass”, cited in the original version as a facsimile of the autograph (Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: D. Ms. 100) in Mitteilungen des Max-Reger-Instituts, Bonn, im Auftrage des Kuratoriums des Max-Reger-Instituts ed. Ottmar Schreiber, Vol. 15 (May 1966), pp. 2–44; citations pp. 13 and 41. – Reger’s essay (RWV Schriften A3) was first published in 1904 in the Süddeutsche Monatshefte 1 Jg., Vol. 2 (February 1904), pp. 157–164, in which his text was considerably watered down. Passages were removed including the second passage cited here.
RWV Wolf-B1–7 and H1–4. This work was undertaken for Lauterbach & Kuhn, Reger’s main publisher since 1903, who had acquired part of Wolf’s estate in that year. – For information on Reger’s performances of Wolf songs, see Susanne Popp: “An Hugo Wolf. Reger widmet sich Wolf”, paper for the symposium “Zwischen Bürgerkunst und Neuer Musik. Hugo Wolf und Max Reger”, 3–5 July 2003, Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart, unpublished congress report, typescript in the Max-Reger- Institut, Karlsruhe, 22 pp; statistics pp. 12–14.

1. 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.1

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” 2 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”.3 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 sounds4 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 5, 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” 6 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 worlds7, 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)8 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)


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Karl Nef, for example, wrote in the Schweizerische Musik-Zeitung: “Often the composer cannot get away from an accompanying motif once chosen and hunts it to death.” (Review)
Popp, Werk statt Leben, p. 160.
Susanne Popp, “Der Provokateur – Max Reger und München”, in Facetten II. Kleine Studien – Edition und Interpretation bei Chopin – Die Münchner Schule und Max Reger, ed. Claus Bockmaier, Munich 2016 (= Musikwissen- schaftliche Schriften der Hochschule für Musik und Theater München, Vol. 10), pp. 161–178; here: p. 167.
“An up-and-coming artist such as Reger, however, cannot demand that an official in the office of weights and measures for art in Blasewitz can grasp something which does not fit into the official curriculum of German art primary school, known as “Kunstwart” (Richard Braungart, “Max Reger als Liederkomponist”, in Freistatt).
For information on these, see Vol. II/3 of the RWA (forthcoming).
See Heinrich Reimann in Das kleine Journal, 4 March 1903 and Ernst Eduard Taubert in Die Post, 3 March 1903.
See the account by Paul Zschorlich, written at the fitting reflective distance of almost three weeks, who was the sole person on Reger’s side, and who de- tected the bankruptcy of Berlin music critics: “I would not say it if the individual reviews themselves did not present me with evidence of the critical impotence of the reviewers. Always the same problem.” (Review in Die Zeit. Nationalsoziale Wochenschrift)
Referring to this, writing in 1905 Leichtentritt compared Reger’s (chamber music) melodies as the first with a “very artistic, finely stylised, free prose” (“Max Reger als Kammermusikkomponist”, in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 72 Jg., no. 44 (25 October 1905), p. 866f.; here: p. 867; cited in Susanne Popp, “Gebundene Lyrik – freie musikalische Prosa in Max Regers Liedern”, in Reger-Studien 10, pp. 49–68; here: p. 68).

1. Stemma

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

2. Quellenbewertung

Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle grundsätzlich der Erstdruck zugrunde. Im Bereich der Vortragsanweisungen wurde jedoch dennoch oftmals den Lesarten der Stichvorlagen der Vorzug gegeben (siehe Zu den editorischen Besonderheiten dieses Bandes). Die auf Basis des Erstdrucks erstellten autographen Transpositionen von Nr. 6 Schmied Schmerz und Nr. 11 Frühlingsmorgen (Editionen im Anhang) spielten für die Edition der Originalfassung eine untergeordnete Rolle. Die Einzelausgabe der Nr. 8 (Gleich einer versunkenen Melodie...) aus der Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung ist mit dem Erstdruck identisch.

3. Sources

  • Stichvorlagen
  • Erstdruck
  • Autographe Transpositionen der Nr. 6 und 11

Weiterlesen in der RWA

Object reference

Max Reger: Twelve Songs op. 51, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 10th December 2022.


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