Fifteen Songs op. 55
for high or medium voice and piano
No. 1 Hymnus des Hasses
Text: Christian Morgenstern
No. 2 Traum
Text: Franz Evers
No. 3 Der tapfere Schneider
Text: Gustav Falke
No. 4 Rosen
Text: Marie Itzerott
No. 5 Der Narr
Text: Ludwig Jacobowski
No. 6 Verklärung
Text: Marie Itzerott
No. 7 Sterne
Text: Anna Ritter
No. 8 Zwei Gänse (»De Capitolio«)
Text: Julius Sturm
No. 9 Ein Paar
Text: Richard Braungart
No. 10 Wären wir zwei kleine Vögel…
Text: Leo Greiner
No. 11 Viola d’amour
Text: Gustav Falke
No. 12 Nachtsegen
Text: Franz Evers
No. 13 Gute Nacht
Text: Gustav Falke
No. 14 Allen Welten abgewandt
Text: Maria Stona
No. 15 Der Alte
Text: Gustav Falke
|Reger-Werkausgabe||Bd. II/2: Lieder II, S. 126–172.|
|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.|
|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.
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In mid-November 1900, a few weeks after he had submitted the Twelve Songs op. 51 for print, Reger again laid out the text sources for his “very latest” song settings,(Letter dated 14 November 1900 to Josef Loritz) but initially turned to composing the String Quartet in G minor op. 54 no. 1 and other works. At the turn of the year, the new collection of op. 55 took shape, which Reger wanted to embark on in “the next few days”, giving a number of “10–15” (Letter dated 30 December 1900 to Alexander W. Gottschalg) pieces in one place, and “15” songs (Letter dated 30 December 1900 to Julius Smend) in another. The dates of completion of a total of six songs together with Reger’s correspondence provide information about the progress of the composition. According to these, on 14 March “8 songs [were] ready” (Letter to Theodor Kroyer), and four days later it was “now 11” (letter dated 18 march 1900 to Josef Loritz), followed by a further piece on 29 March; (see letter dated 30 March 1901 to the same on 13 April he was able to inform Theodor Kroyer about the completion of the collection of 15 songs. (see letter)1 The compositional sequence of the songs, which survive in separate manuscripts, does not match the later sequence in the opus: the earliest of the six dates of completion (12 February 1901) is found at the end of the fair copy of the song which became no. 14 (Allen Welten abgewandt), and the latest (10 April) at the end of no. 7 (Sterne).2 A surviving compilation of the songs made in pencil, together with sketches of the first movement of the Piano Quintet in C minor op. 64 (originally op. 56) begun around April 1901, are evidence that the order was worked out subsequently. This already records the final sequence, notated for the nine songs in the second book, but still for »low voice« (instead of the later »medium voice«)3. Reger began the collection in a programmatic way, with one of his “defiant songs” (a setting of Morgenstern’s Hymnus des Hasses); he proceeded in similar fashion in opp. 62, 70, and 75 4. He consciously sought to be provocative with these opening songs in order to wake up the musical world »to leave its tried and trusted ways« and to overcome their »lack of interest«5.
Reger initially set aside the engraver’s copy, in order to submit it to the publisher Jos. Aibl on 15 June together with the manuscripts of opp. 54 and 56 (later 64) to 58.Note: See Bescheinigungsbuch über die von Herrn Reger Weiden an die hiesigen Postanstalten zur Postbeförderung übergebenen einzuschreibenden Briefpostsendungen, Postanweisungen, Geldbriefe und Packetsendungen, 1899–1912, Meininger Museen, Abteilung Musikgeschichte mit Max-Reger-Archiv, Inventarnummer XI-4 3314, fol. 6. – The day before Reger had written to Loritz: “Tomorrow I will send my new things op 54–58 etc. to Herr Spitzweg” (letter dated 14 June 1901). He signed the copyright agreement and royalty receipt statement on 20 June.Note: Both documents were signed for opp. 54 to 58, WoO III/13 and VI/17 as well as RWV Bach-B6 (nos. 1, 15). On 9 July Reger expressed his confidence to Josef Loritz that the work would be published “by 1 September”. (Letter) In fact, he received two advance gratis copies by the last week of August, a few days before his move to Munich. (see postcard dated 25 August 1901 to Josef Loritz) On 5 September he informed the poet Richard Braungart: “‘Ein Paar’ [no. 9] has just been published; i.e. not yet ‘officially’; in a few days it will also be officially published.” (Postcard) The same month op. 55 was listed in Hofmeister’s Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht as a new publication6. Before the printing of the collection Reger had written to Kroyer: “In these newest songs I am a little less demanding in terms of ‘technical’ requirements on the accompanist – but believe that I have deepened the expression even more in these, & that the musical language has become even more concise! (One is always learning!) Also 2 humorous songs are included. However, my tendency towards the ‘melancholy’ is ineradicable”. ( Letter dated 2 August 1901) From the beginning of the composition Reger had wanted to dedicate the piece to the famous Wagnerian baritone Eugen Gura; Richard Strauss, amongst others, had dedicated a work to him (Three Songs op. 29, 1894/95). Gura still enjoyed a tremendous reputation as a ballad singer, but around 1900 he was coming to the end of his career 7. Reger’s friend Loritz was secured as contact person; from May 1900 he was a private student of Gura’s, and the same month Reger asked him to go through his songs with Gura. “Please, write to me, what Gura said about my songs!” (Letter dated 9 May 1900) At the beginning of 1901 Reger sent Gura a few songs and offered to prepare transpositions if these were required. When no reaction followed repeated requests8, he toyed with the idea of dropping the planned dedication (“as I do not want to ‘waste my efforts’”), but at the same time asked Loritz to “carefully sound out” the singer! “Please do not talk about the dedication – but ask him, when he is going to sing Reger!” (Letter dated 1 May 1901) After this Reger must at least have received some kind of response from the singer, for the dedication was retained, and in September Reger was able to report that Gura has “included 4 songs by me in his repertoire; but he can no longer sing op 55, and Loritz himself has severe difficulties with them!” (Postcard dated 11 September 1901 to Adalbert Lindner)9 Reger made a transposition of no. 5 Der Narr from A minor to G minor especially for Loritz.
Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.
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.
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). Als weitere autographe Quelle der Originalfassung wurde die Erstschrift der Nr. 8 (Zwei Gänse) herangezogen. Die auf Basis des Erstdrucks erstellte autographe Transposition der Nr. 5 (Der Narr; Edition siehe Anhang) spielte für die Edition der Originalfassung eine untergeordnete Rolle. Josef Regers vom Komponisten autorisierte Bearbeitung für Harmonium der Nr. 11 (Viola d‘amour) war nicht relevant.
- Erstschrift Nr. 8
- Entwurf Liedabfolge
- Autographe Transposition der Nr. 5
- Frühe Niederschrift (Max-Reger-Institut)
Max Reger: Fifteen Songs op. 55, in: Reger-Werkausgabe, www.reger-werkausgabe.de/mri_work_00055.html, last check: 6th July 2022.
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