Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue op. 57

for organ

  • I. Phantasie
  • II. Fuge
Herrn Gustav Beckmann zugeeignet

Performance medium

Work collection
  • -
Original work
  • -
  • -


Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. I/2: Phantasien und Fugen, Variationen, Sonaten, Suiten I, S. 124–156.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.802.
Erscheinungsdatum Februar 2011.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2011 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.802.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-09485-0.
ISBN 978-3-89948-141-9.

1. Composition

The period during which Reger wrote his Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue can be reliably pinpointed by information contained in letters: on 18 April 1901 Reger announced that he was going to begin in “the very next days […] a large symphonic Fantasia and Fugue (op 57) for organ!” 1 Just two weeks later he reported that a “new organ work op. 57” was “completely finished!”, (Card to Joseph Renner) however this did not necessarily mean that all the stages of composition were complete (see Reger’s working methods). On the contrary, Reger was evidently still occupied with the manuscript at the beginning of May – perhaps with the correction stages – for he only promised Karl Straube that he would dispatch it on 12 May so a copy could be made (Letter).2 With op. 57 Reger ended his usual practice since op. 27 (1898), of making a separate manuscript of each major organ work for Straube’s immediate use (see Manuscripts for Karl Straube).

On the other hand, what is not entirely clear is the history of the work. As early as 30 December 1900 Reger said that among his immediate plans for compositions was “a new organ sonata” as op. 57, which “is already fairly complete in my mind” and is only waiting to be written out” (Letter to Gottschalg). While he apparently changed his plans for op. 57, the sonata he originally intended may nevertheless have taken shape towards the end of 1901 with op. 60, his second contribution to the genre.

It is possible that Reger developed the concept for the Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue following the experience of a concert which Karl Straube gave on 5 March 1901 in the Munich Kaim-Saal. He reported of this that Straube had played “my sometimes so ‘peppery’ things in such a way that I myself was quite amazed on account of his eminent technique” (Letter to Otto Leßmann). Certainly in the end, Reger wrote a work whose technical demands represent a further intensification compared with his preceding works. On 30 March he told Josef Loritz: “in 14 days there will be a new organ work; brace yourself for it!” (Letter) Reger’s trust in Straube’s abilities was almost unshakeable at this time: “Straube complains that op. 57 is so appallingly difficult! I bet, in 4 weeks he’ll be able to play it impeccably!” (Letter to Loritz)3

2. Publication

As usual, Reger sent Jos. Aibl, then his main publisher, several engraver’s copies together: in a letter dated 14 June 1901 he wrote, “Tomorrow I will send my new pieces opp. 54–58 etc. to Herr Spitzweg!” 4 Aibl accepted all the works he was sent for publication; Reger signed the corresponding confirmation of the receipt of fees on 20 June. There is no further evidence about the publishing process.

On 12 December, probably directly after receiving his author’s copies,5 Reger sent a copy of the first edition of op. 57 to Max Schillings. In his accompanying letter he admitted frankly “that some passages are downright dreadfully ‘unorthographically’ notated – I don’t know, I’m very careless about this and I don’t look for ‘military precision’ alias orthographic notation of my ‘ill-mannered tearaways’ alias compositions” (Letter).

While he simply offered “to explain the ‘harmonic meanderings’ […] theoretically” (ibid.) to Schillings, Reger only later referred to an extra-musical connection which was to explain the work: “Op. 57 is inspired by Dante’s ‘Inferno!’ That should probably tell you everything worth knowing” (Card to Gustav Beckmann; see also Populärtitel).


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Letter to Theodor Kroyer, Staatliche Bibliothek Regensburg, shelf number: IP/4Art. 174.
“You will receive the symphonic Fantasia and Fugue op. 57 early next Sunday! […] I am much obliged to you for having this copied yourself, for it is a wretched job.” (Letter dated 7 May 1901 to Karl Straube, in Straube-Briefe, p. 19).
As Straube then studied the work, he evidently complied with the request and had a copy made (see Letter to Straube).
The entry of a registered business document (to the value of 300 Marks) on 15 June in Reger’s Postbuch 1, fol. 6, confirms this.
According to a letter dated 2 December 1901 to Martin Krause, the publication of the first edition was imminent at this point.

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 Quelle wurde die autographe Stichvorlage herangezogen.

3. Sources

    Object reference

    Max Reger: Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue op. 57, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 20th May 2024.


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