Fifty-two Easy Preludes on the most common protestant chorales op. 67

for organ


Performance medium

Work collection
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Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. I/4: Choralvorspiele, S. 14–111.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner-Grage.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.804.
Erscheinungsdatum Juni 2013.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2013 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.804.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-13938-4.
ISBN 978-3-89948-180-8.

Fifty-two Easy Preludes on the most common protestant chorales

1. Composition

In May 1901 Reger announced to Karl Straube that he would “write about 30 chorale preludes on the best-known chorales in the foreseeable future” (Letter). After his move to Munich, in September he began work on implementing his plan – expanded in the meantime – but reckoned on a longer period of composition: “So ‘as a sideline’ I am now writing technically ‘simpler’, in fact not difficult chorale preludes for organ! There will probably be 50 nos. In 1 year the thing might have appeared!” (Letter) The selection of chorales was discussed with an “organist of 30 years’ experience”, as Reger later emphasized when submitting the manuscript (Letter).1 That probably ruled out most of the contemporary Reger interpreters, for they belonged to his own generation.2 A likely candidate was the dedicatee of the second volume, Robert Frenzel, with whom Reger was in contact from at least spring 1901 (about Frenzel’s chorale preludes) and who was organist in Schneeberg in Saxony from 1876 onwards.3

Reger can only have begun making the fair copy after all 50 preludes were sketched out, since the continuously written out engraver’s copy of the collection comprises three volumes of exactly the same extent. In April 1902 the composition was well advanced (Postcard), but then evidently laid aside; in August Reger told his fiancée Elsa von Bercken that he was writing “chorale preludes for organ (50 pieces) in September which will bring me 1,000 M”.4 Reger confirmed to his publishers on 1 September that he was busy at that moment with the chorale preludes.5 On 30 September the composition must have been nearly complete, and Reger told Theodor Kroyer of his intention of submitting the “50 chorale preludes for organ […] for print next week” (Letter).

The engraver’s copy contains the number of 50 chorale preludes envisaged since September 1901 in alphabetical sequence (see overview).6 This includes the preludes “Jauchz, Erd und Himmel, juble!” and “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” as nos. 15 and 48, which had already been published as inserts in the Monatschrift für Gottesdienst und kirchliche Kunst (see Chorale preludes for periodicals 1899–1901).

2. Publication

On 18 October 1902, that is later than planned (see composition), Reger probably firstly sent the chorale preludes to the publisher F.E.C. Leuckart 7 who had already published opp. 60 and 63 earlier that year. He must have declined to publish it straight away, for on 21 October Reger wrote in turn to Lauterbach & Kuhn: “It is possible that I can now indeed offer you the chorale preludes for organ (op 67) and I can say without any arrogance that no such collection of chorale preludes has been published since J. S. Bach. What is more, none of these preludes is technically difficult.” (Letter) The following day he submitted the manuscripts of the 50 preludes for publication with the assurance that the pieces “at least equal all my previously published organ works in quality, only that they are technically easier” (Letter). The royalty of 1,000 Marks Reger suggested was increased by the publisher to 1,620 Marks.

Shortly afterwards, Max Kuhn gave the Leipzig University music director Hermann Kretzschmar the preludes for assessment, who offered the opinion that they “are nothing more than simple music for church music directors, that is compositions which any village school music teacher can play”.8 Karl Straube, who was in Leipzig in mid-November to negotiate about the position he was to take up as Kantor of the Thomaskirche from 1 January 1903, successfully championed the work with the publishers, for which Reger thanked him on 26 November: I am really, really pleased that you like the 50 chorale preludes so much and am most grateful to you that you have immediately taught Messrs Lauterbach u. Kuhn a thing or two!” (Letter)9

The same day Reger sent Lauterbach & Kuhn the insert just published in the Monatschrift für Gottesdienst und kirchliche Kunst, the Chorale Prelude “O wie selig” (Covering letter), in a letter dated 25 December he also assigned the publisher the rights in the Chorale Prelude “Jesus ist kommen”, which appeared in the January edition of the Monatschrift.10

As early as 6 December Reger had received the sets of proofs of the three volumes (Postcard). On 25 February 1903 he handed over the corrected proofs to the publishers at a meeting in Leipzig.11 They probably agreed on that occasion to include the two most recently submitted preludes in the volume as nos. 52 and 51. On 14 April 1903 Reger expressed his thanks for the author’s copies of the preludes, now 52 in number: “The presentation of the chorale preludes is so outstandingly beautiful! Please keep this title page for all my future works!” (Postcard)


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Rudolf Walter established that Reger in fact discussed this with an organist with a view to naming well-known melodies with subtitles (with less common texts) (see Max Regers Choralvorspiele für Orgel, dissertation [Mainz 1949], typescript, p. 70).
Georg Stolz, for example, who is named in the literature from time to time (in Walter et al, see note 1), did not have 30 years’ experience, as he was then just 32 years old. Reger’s inquiry in summer 1902, whether he would like to compile “Melodies and […] verses […] of at least fifty sacred folk songs” for him (Letter), evidently relates to a composition project which did not come to fruition.
Reger had probably received from Frenzel the or an edition of the related Vierstimmiges Choralbuch, which may have served as source for most of the chorales in Opus 67 (see The choral sources). The following year Frenzel, as requested by Reger, made detailed suggestions for a collection of sacred popular songs [RWV appendix B8] and forwarded for this purpose a song book called Große Missionsharfe (Geistliches Liederbuch für gemischten Chor, sowie Klavier- oder Harmonium-Begleitung, Gütersloh 1898).
Reger had reviewed Frenzel’s own chorale preludes the year before for the Monatschrift für Gottesdienst und kirchliche Kunst (6. Jg. [1901], No. 2 [February issue], p. 66); however, a reprint of the review which Reger wanted in the Allgemeinen Musik-Zeitung (see letter to Otto Leßmann) did not happen.
Letter dated 12 August 1902, Max-Reger-Institut, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 1778. Although the wording suggests a new composition, it probably resulted from his need to show off his abilities.
For publication the alphabetical order of the chorale preludes was abandoned in six places to improve the page turns. “Jauchz, Erd, und Himmel, juble!” already occurs in the engraver’s copy as no. 15 before “Ich dank dir, lieber Herre”, thus forming the conclusion of the first book.
 “I am hard at work and in 2 hours am going to the post in order to send off my manuscript” (postcard dated 18 Oktober 1902 to Elsa von Bercken, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 1851). Reger’s Postbuch 2 (postal receipt book) lists a registered business document to Constantin Sander, the proprietor of the publishing house, under this date (postage 50 Pfg, likewise on 22 October to Lauterbach & Kuhn).
Rückblick Carl Lauterbachs 1925, in Lauterbach & Kuhn-Briefe 2, p. 377.
On this occasion Reger remarked to the friend: “The collection isn’t so very easy, however – but is still acceptable in its level of difficulty!”
The engraver’s copy of this chorale prelude for the Monatschrift has also survived, which must have been submitted before Reger’s move within Munich at the end of October 1902 (see annotation).
See letter dated 20 February 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn, in Lauterbach & Kuhn-Briefe 1, p. 98: “I will bring the 17 new Songs op 70 together with the complete checked chorale prelude corrections op67 with me!”

1. Reception

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

1. Stemma

Die in Klammern gesetzten Quellen sind verschollen. 
                        (* erhalten sind nur die Entwürfe zu Nr. 16, 17 und 30)
Die in Klammern gesetzten Quellen sind verschollen.
(* erhalten sind nur die Entwürfe zu Nr. 16, 17 und 30)

2. Quellenbewertung

Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle der Erstdruck des Sammelbands zugrunde. Als zusätzliche Quellen wurden die Stichvorlage des Sammelbands, die Stichvorlage der Nr. 51 (»Jesus ist kommen«) für die Monatschrift für Gottesdienst und kirchliche Kunst sowie die Zeitschriftenbeigaben Nr. 15, 48 (in 1. und 2. Beigabe), 51 und 52 herangezogen.1 Die vorhandenen Entwürfe spielten für die Edition keine Rolle.

3. Sources

    Nr. 21 (»Jesu, meine Freude«) erschien 1910 in , einer von Felix Striegler herausgegebenen Sammlung. Diese Ausgabe weist spieltechnische Hinweise, Änderungen in der Phrasierung und Manualverteilung auf; obwohl Reger über diese Sammlung prinzipiell informiert war, dürften die Eingriffe, die ja vornehmlich pädagogischen Zwecken dienen, dennoch kaum mit ihm abgestimmt gewesen sein.
    Object reference

    Max Reger: Fifty-two Easy Preludes on the most common protestant chorales op. 67, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 13th July 2024.


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