Twelve Pieces op. 59

for organ

  • No. 1 Präludium e-Moll
  • No. 2 Pastorale F-Dur
  • No. 3 Intermezzo a-Moll
  • No. 4 Canon E-Dur
  • No. 5 Toccata d-Moll
  • No. 6 Fuge D-Dur
  • No. 7 Kyrie eleison
  • No. 8 Gloria in excelsis
  • No. 9 Benedictus
  • No. 10 Capriccio fis-Moll
  • No. 11 Melodia
  • No. 12 Te Deum

Performance medium

Work collection
  • -
Original work
  • -
  • Zwölf Stücke op. 59 (from Benedictus op. 59 Nr. 9), Version for Harmonium


Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. I/5: Orgelstücke I, S. 66–116.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner-Grage.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.805.
Erscheinungsdatum Februar 2014.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2014 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.805.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-14293-3.
ISBN 978-3-89948-206-5.

1. Composition

The composition of the Twelve Pieces for organ op. 59 was in response to a request from the Leipzig publisher C.F. Peters, which may have come to Reger via Karl Peiser.1 (Peiser was managing director of the publisher Hug & Co. Leipzig and an adviser to Henri Hinrichsen, the new owner of C.F. Peters.2) On 31 May 1901, probably soon after he had drafted the pieces, Reger turned to Hinrichsen: “The Hug gentlemen will have told you that I am happy to write a series of organ pieces of medium difficulty for your highly esteemed publishing house; […] none of the the pieces is difficult technically; & you will receive my manuscript, fully ready for printing, by the end of July, at the latest by the beginning of August of this year, that is still early enough for you to be able to include my pieces, which will bear the opus number 59, amongst the new publications for autumn of this year. As a title, I allow myself to suggest to you: Twelve Pieces for the organ […] op 59. Vol. 1, Vol. 2.” (Letter) Not only the division into two books, but also the individual titles and the overall extent are now decided (see letter dated 2 June).

As Reger first had to complete a whole package of works for Aibl-Verlag (see op. 57, ), he postponed the writing out of op. 59. On 14 June 1901 he told Josef Loritz, referring to the forthcoming composition, that he had “promised Peters a hefty manuscript for 15 July”; the latter would pay 600 M for a work which I can most comfortably write in 14 days; á discretion!” (Letter)

Directly after completing the work for Aibl on 15 June, Reger began writing out his op. 59: As early as 17 June, he played the first piece, Prelude, for Adalbert Lindner on the piano and gave him the sketch, now no longer needed (see date).3 The other pieces followed in order of their numbering, until the Te deum was completed on 1 July as no. 12.4 According to a communication with a friend, Reger embarked on new tasks as early as 2 July (letter). Nevertheless he retained the engraver’s copies for the two volumes; Peters had stipulated the date of 17 July for the submission of the manuscript with a view to issuing it as part of the new autumn publications (letter dated 11 June 1901).5 It is conceivable that small editorial revisions were still made during this period, but the manuscript does not bear signs of any major conceptional interventions.

2. Publication

Reger sent the two manuscript volumes punctually on 13 July 1901: “[…] if you have the work engraved straight away, it can comfortably be published by the beginning of September a.c. [annus currens = current year]! Allow me to now make a few remarks about it: none of the pieces is more than moderately difficult. No 2, 4, 9, 11 are indeed ‘very easy’; in print, each volume should come out at about 26–28 pages; both manuscripts have been carefully checked and both throroughly tried out in practice. I am calmly looking forward to all the reviews of this work” (letter).

Hinrichsen sent the agreed royalty of 600 Marks and the copyright agreement immediately, and announced: “In a few weeks I will have the work sent to you for checking” (letter dated 15 July). Reger returned the set of proofs, which “caused more trouble than I had expected” (letter), to the publisher on 9 August. On 4 September 1901 he confirmed receipt of his author’s copies and expressed his thanks “for the beautiful presentation of the work” (letter).


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

See Erika Bucholtz, Henri Hinrichsen und der Musikverlag C.F. Peters. Deutsch-jüdisches Bürgertum in Leipzig von 1891 bis 1938, Tübingen 2001 (= Schriftenreihe wissenschaftlicher Abhandlungen des Leo-Baeck-Instituts Vol. 65), p. 113. – Reger had his first contact with C.F. Peters in 1898 and had offered the publisher, at that time still managed by Max Abraham, several piano pieces (including the Waltzes op. 22 and the Fantasiestücke op. 26) as well as the Chorale Fantasia “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott“ op. 27. “These compositions remained with us for eight days, were checked by Dr. Doerffel most conscientiously, who came to the conclusion that they should be declined. To the 78-year-old veteran Bach admirer, ‘accustomed to Romanticism’, the stormy sounds of the musician of the future understandably seemed to be ‘alarming’.” (Elsa von Zschinsky-Troxler, Geschichte des Verlagshauses C. F. Peters von ihren Anfängen am 1. Dezember 1800 bis zum heutigen Tage 1. April 1933, Leipzig 1933, typescript in C.F. Peters archive, Leipzig, p. 39).
According to the copyright date, 18 madrigal arrangements by Reger (RWV Madrigale-B1 and B2) were published by Hug & Co. Leipzig the previous year. There were connections with Peters-Verlag both through Karl Peiser, and from Hinrichsen’s apprenticeship at Hug & Co. Zurich.
Lindner reported: “In the short period from 17 June to 1 July 1901 they were written out, every day a fully completed piece which he played for me in the evening, and presented me with the sketches” (see Entwürfe, Notiz Lindners). See note 4 for the precise dates of composition.
Lindner’s dates give the dates by which each fair copy was written out in black ink. No. 1: 17 June (Monday), nos. 2 and 3: 18 June (Tuesday), no. 4: 19 June (Wednesday), no. 5: 20 June (Thursday), no. 8: 25 June (Tuesday), no. 9: 26 June (Wednesday), no. 12: 1 July (Monday). Since Reger wrote out the two volumes of the engraver’s copies consecutively, nos. 6–7 and 10–11, the sketches of which are undated, should be assigned to the intervening days.
Even the enquiry via Karl Peiser may have been with a view to publication in September (see Regers letter dated 31 May).

1. Reception

With this collection, Reger’s organ works, previously acclaimed or attacked as virtuoso music, really achieved widespread recognition for the first time.1 Hermann Wilske detected for op. 59 a “shift in the public reaction from respect to a sensuous feeling of well-being” 2, which of course in turn had an effect on the reception of the previously-published large organ works, especially the chorale fantasias. Heinrich Lang, for example, wrote in the Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung: “[…] if we compare these op. 59 pieces with the three from op. 52, a wonderful clarity can be detected compared with the whole style of the latter, yet despite this, the whole artistic contrivance functions with the same degree of perfection. These op. 59 organ pieces are true treasure troves of beauties for all first-rate organists and they will find enthusiastic audiences everywhere.” (Review) Theodor Kroyer, who again proved to be overwhelmed by the Chorale Fantasias op. 52 and the Fantasia and Fugue on B-A-C-H op. 46 performed by Karl Straube in a Reger recital in November 1901 in the Kaim-Saal Munich, likewise experienced in op. 59 the “conciliatory side of the composer. This is extremely finely-wrought poetry, more sensuous than great, but in no way of lesser value. Here, we are dealing with authentic, refined gold of the most individual character.” (Allgemeine Zeitung München)

The popularity of the Twelve Pieces amongst critics and in concerts, which Reger once more introduced as an argument for their desired promotion to music institutes,3 was also reflected in C.F. Peters’ sales figures: with an initial print run of 500 copies, the organ pieces were nevertheless so successful that they were reprinted as early as 1903 (vol. 1) and 1905 (vol. 2). All in all, between 1901 and 1918, 2,800 copies of each volume were printed in a total of seven print runs, almost all of which were sold. In addition, the publisher issued Reger’s own harmonium arrangement of the Benedictus (no. 9) in 1908 (1,050 copies) and in 1910 a separate organ edition (700 copies), of which just a few remainder copies were left in 1918.4 Furthermore, in 1912 Karl Straube published the Kyrie eleison, Gloria in excelsis and Benedictus in a practical selected edition. The Benedictus, either combined with the Kyrie or played in concerts as an individual crowd pleaser, constitutes “undoubtedly the most frequently performed of Reger’s freely-composed organ works during his lifetime” 5.


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Ernst Isler saw in these pieces the “first fruits” of a “transparent organ style”, which “will bring the name of Reger to wider audiences”. (Max Reger, Zürich 1917 [= 105. Neujahrsblatt der Allgemeinen Musikgesellschaft in Zürich], p. 34).
Wilske 1995, p. 127.
“I can arrange the introduction of the 12 organ pieces at the Imperial and Royal Conservatoires in Vienna & Budapest as soon as they are published; […] It will also be easy to enable the introduction of the 12 pieces at the Royal Conservatoire in Leipzig! It might also be really useful if you could perhaps use a few of the reviews as advertisements!” (Letter to Henri Hinrichsen) Walter Fischer, one of his most assiduous interpreters, wrote in the same vein as Reger in 1910: “The beginner is above all recommended to use Peters op. 59 as an introduction to playing Reger. This opus by Reger contains the greatest number of easily approachable pieces.” (Über die Wiedergabe der Orgel-Kompositionen Max Regers, lecture for the General Meeting of Westphalian Organists in Dortmund in May 1910, Cologne 1910, p. 5)
Between 1901 and 1918, 2,584 copies of volume 1 and 2,688 copies of volume 2 were sold; 1,039 copies of the harmonium arrangement and 683 copies of the separate edition of no. 9 were also sold (see Wilske 1995, p. 372). Three print runs of the Four Preludes and Fugues op. 85, totalling 950 copies were issued, of which 800 were sold (ibid., p. 373).
Wilske 1995, p. 127.

1. Stemma

Die in Klammern gesetzte Quelle ist verschollen.
Die in Klammern gesetzte Quelle ist verschollen.

2. Quellenbewertung

Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle der Erstdruck zugrunde. Als zusätzliche Quelle wurde die autographe Stichvorlage herangezogen. Die vorhandenen Entwürfe spielten für die Edition eine untergeordnete Rolle, ebenso die Harmoniumfassung der Nr. 9. Unberücksichtigt blieb die praktische Ausgabe von Karl Straube.1

3. Sources

    Zwar hatte Reger die Korrekturen der Ausgabe Henri Hinrichsen (vgl. Postkarte) persönlich übergeben und vermutlich also auch eingesehen. Die Vortragsanweisungen sind gegenüber dem Original jedoch so grundlegend geändert, dass auf dessen Autorintention von hier aus nicht zu schließen ist; der Notentext hingegen war offenbar nicht systematisch revidiert worden.
    Object reference

    Max Reger: Twelve Pieces op. 59, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 16th June 2024.


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