Six Songs op. 68

for medium voice and piano

  • No. 1 Eine Seele

    Text: Ludwig Jacobowski

  • No. 2 Unterwegs

    Text: Martin Boelitz

  • No. 3 Märchenland

    Text: Franz Evers

  • No. 4 Engelwacht

    Text: Franz Alfred Muth

  • No. 5 Nachtseele

    Text: Franz Evers

  • No. 6 An die Geliebte

    Text: Gustav Falke

Komponiert in Berchtesgaden, zwischen dem 16. und 31. August 1902
Elsa Reger gewidmet

Performance medium
Middle voice; Piano

Work collection
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Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. II/3: Lieder III, S. 118–133.
Herausgeber Knud Breyer und Stefan König.
Unter Mitarbeit von Christopher Grafschmidt und Claudia Seidl.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlags- und Plattennummer: CV 52.810.
Erscheinungsdatum September 2022.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2022 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.810.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-29722-0.
ISBN 978-3-89948-432-8.

1. Composition and Publication

Reger’s next song collection was initially intended for the publisher Bartholf Senff, but they turned it down. And so the Six Songs op. 68 were also published by Lauterbach & Kuhn, who thereby further intensified their business relationship with Reger.

At the beginning of May 1902, Reger made contact with publishers including the Leipzig firm of Bartholf Senff with the strategic aim of positioning himself more broadly with the publication of his music, and also to find long-term alternatives to his existing main publisher Jos. Aibl (see op. 66). By June he was able to publish his Six Burlesques op. 58 for piano duet with this firm. Senff also expressed interest in chamber music works and songs, for which Reger to his “greatest regret” had no free time, but he promised “that in the future I will think of you first and foremost”(Letter dated 4 May 1902 to the publisher Bartholf Senff )1. He subsequently maintained his connection with the publisher who also distributed the periodical Signale für die musikalische Welt, so Reger could hope for matching reviews of his works2. In mid-July he announced a new song collection for “the end of October this year” (letter dated 14 July 1902 to the publisher Bartholf Senff). On 11 August, because of the fast completion of the Songs op. 66, which were despatched to Lauterbach & Kuhn the following day, he was able to update his plans and advise Senff of 8 Lieder for your highly-esteemed publishing house” as early as “around 1 September” (letter dated 11 August 1902 to the publisher Bartholf Senff). But just a day later, in the course of preparations for his engagement holiday, which he spent in the second half of August at his mother-in-law Auguste von Bagenski’s summer house at Schneewinkl-Lehen near Berchtesgaden, Reger only mentioned to his future wife Elsa von Bercken 6 new songs which he intended to compose whilst she was with him.

He announced his arrival to Elsa von Bercken: “I will bring some beautiful poems with me to compose” (letter dated 12 August 1902; as preceding citation). In May Gustav Falke, one of the most sought-after poets amongst contemporary song composers,3 had sent Reger his “latest book of poetry” at his request “in Mscript” (letter from Gustav Falke dated 22 May 1902 to Max Reger); this was to result in the collection Hohe Sommertage. From this, the composer initially wrote out 12 poems and promised to set all as soon as possible” (etter dated 30 May 1902 to Falke). For op. 68 he subsequently chose the poem Ausklang, especially suitable for the dedicatee, which he then set to music under the title An die Geliebte. He kept the two ironic poems Die bunten Kühe and Wäsche im Wind for the next song opuses 70 and 75.4 In addition, for op. 68 Reger drew on poems by Ludwig Jacobowski (Eine Seele [no. 1]), Martin Boelitz (Unterwegs [no. 2]), Franz Evers (Märchenland [no. 3], Nachtseele [no. 5]) and Franz Alfred Muth (Engelwacht [no. 4]). Reger also received the poem by Boelitz from the author in manuscript.5 He did not become familiar with Engelwacht through the poem’s publication, but through the setting by Wilhelm Weber (op. 8 no. 1) as a music insert in the Neue Musik-Zeitung.6 In deciding on the order, Reger was influenced by the textual content so that in op. 68 a cyclical coherence can be seen. After the soulmates have found each other (Eine Seele), the journey begins through an “unknown land” (Unterwegs). It leads into Märchenland, which is characterised more deeply through two night poems, with Nachtseele “and the moon’s shimmers bring / your love’s nocturnal desire” (u“nd die Mondesschimmer bringen / deiner Liebe Nachtbegehr”) also contributing an erotic component. Falke’s poem finally celebrates eternal love (“Immer bleibst du lieblich mir, / immer hold im Herzen, / immer brennen heilig hier / dir geweihte Kerzen”).

Work proceeded apace in the Upper Bavarian idyll. On 4 September, straight after he had returned to Munich, Reger was able to send the engraver’s copies of the 6 Songs for medium voice op. 68” to Senff. Confident of a guaranteed publishing contract, Reger wrote that he believed “with these to have responded to your wishes to include songs by me in your highly-esteemed publishing company to the best of my ability. [...] I would very much like to ask you to publish these songs op 68 individually. As far as the royalty goes, I would like to accommodate you in this. I am paid 60 M per song; but for these 6 Songs op 68 I do not ask for 360 M, but only 250 M (two hundred and fifty Marks) & hope very much that this reduction of royalty will surely be a sign to you that I wish to have the most active collaboration with you. Please send the songs to be engraved as soon as possible!” (letter dated 4 September 1902 to Senff) However, the work must have been promptly rejected, as can be deduced from Reger’s irritated reaction that he would only send such works to the publisher whose quality I have every confidence in”.(Postcard dated 6 September 1902 to the same) As a result no contract was signed with Senff – any further correspondence on this matter does not survive. But with the promising business relationship with Lauterbach & Kuhn, another opportunity for the publication of the Six Songs op. 68 was soon found. On 20 September Reger announced to them – rather casually – the imminent despatch of the new work for the first time, something that had not been discussed in previous agreements.7 A week later the publishers had the engraver’s copy in their hands. Reger charged 300 Marks for the work, that is 50 Marks more than Senff suggested, and in anticipation of future collaboration, assured the publisher: “It goes without saying that the royalty remains at 50 M per song; I will not increase this until I see that my cause is creating great ripples & we both become rich as a result”. (letter dated 27 September 1902 to Max Kuhn) In contrast with Senff, Lauterbach & Kuhn, who officially founded their publishing company on 1 October, immediately accepted the work and remitted the royalty on 2 October.(vgl. letter dated 2. October 1902 to Lauterbach & Kuhn) On 2 November Reger received the proofs, (see letter) which were returned to the publisher on 26 November (“new proof not necessary”; letter), but he retained the manuscript of Unterwegs (no. 2) which had been returned to him for checking the proofs for a concert with Josef Loritz at the end of December.8 The last round of corrections were made so quickly that Reger received the package of gratis copies of the first printed edition two days before Christmas, once again with a high-quality title page design by Emil Rudolf Weiß. (see letter dated 22 December 1902 to the same) Reger dedicated the Six Songs “to my beloved wife Elsa”, whom he had married in a church ceremony on 7 December in Bad Boll, Swabia. Following the gift of Twelve Songs op. 66 as a wedding present, his wife was given the Six Songs op. 68 as a Christmas present.


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

On 6 May Reger had written to Elsa von Bercken:“[...] yet again I have received offers from a major Leipzig publishing house, enquiring whether I would like to submit compositions to their company! But I have nothing in stock; I will have to put these people off until later! This can only be good! Then I will increasingly be in the position of always receiving more royaltites for my works! There are not even 5 composers who only live from compositions like me – ! Everything is getting better and better!”(letter)
“Would it not be possible for the highly-regarded Signale to publish a longer special article on my works?” (letter dated 12 June 1902 to the publisher Bartholf Senff) – The biographical “special article” (with portrait) often requested by Reger came to nothing, but numerous reviews of Reger’s works were published in the Signale, most written by Karl Thiessen.
The Music Department of the Königliche Bibliothek zu Berlin (now Staatsbibliothek Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz) listed over 480 settings of his texts by the time of Falke’s death in 1916. See Oscar Ludwig Brandt, Gustav Falke, Hamburg/Leipzig 1917, p. 19f.
He initially did not copy out Ausklang. – Zweimal zwei ist vier, planned for op. 75, remained a fragment. Reger did not set the other poems he mentioned.
It was only published in 1905 in the collection Frohe Ernte.
XXIII. Jg., no. 15 (10 July 1902).
“At the end of September as well as the cantata “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” I will send you my op 68 – Six Songs.” (letter dated 20 September 1902 to Max Kuhn).
see postcard dated 29 November 1902 to the same. – The engraver’s copy of the song was not subsequently sent to Lauterbach & Kuhn, but remained with Reger and was thus the only manuscript from op. 68 to remain in his papers (now in the Stadtmuseum Weiden [Max-Reger-Sammlung], shelf number: A 8).

1. Reception

In order to help launch the first two publications of Carl Lauterbach und Max Kuhn, Reger himself started a wide-ranging concert and promotion campaign. He personally cultivated contacts with reviewers and performers, and in the winter concert season 1902/1903 organised song recitals in quick succession in cities including Mu- nich, Leipzig, and Berlin in which he himself played the piano. The Munich programs featured his own new publications as well as works by the best-known composer colleagues in the city, including Richard Strauss, Felix von Weingartner, Alexander Ritter, Max Schilling, Felix vom Rath, Ludwig Thuille, Joseph Schmid, and Richard Trunk, who were closely associated with each other both professionally and personally. As well as the opportunity of estab- lishing contacts with these circles, Reger wanted to attract direct comparisons between works, which raised attention especially in the case of Strauss. With his settings of Bierbaum’s Freundliche Vision and Mackays’s Morgen Reger drew attention to himself in the knowledge that the popular settings of the same poems by Strauss would be used as a benchmark. Thus, after the Geneva singer Augusta L’Huillier’s performance in March 1903 in the Bayerischer Hof, Wilhelm Mauke declared in the Münchener Post: “Of the contributions heard yesterday, I liked Mackay’s Morgen best, de- spite the obvious comparison with Strauß’s magnificent song. By comparison, Bierbaum’s Freundliche Vision is much too difficult. It is directly contrary to style to make heavy weather with organist’s harmonies over a cheerful “meadow full of marguerites” (recension, 13 March 1903). Although Rudolf Louis from the Münchner Neuesten Nachrichten, who had heard the song performed by Auguste Vollmar, spoke of a “brilliant talent, the tremendous skill, and the deep artistic seriousness” of Reger’s songs, in the same breath he wrote of the “outer affectation and torment without inner musical content”. Furthermore, he diagnosed a restlessness in the musical structure which “does not always wait for the melodic ideas [...] and then endeavors in vain to replace the lack of a motivic core through harmonic outlandishness” (recension, 7 February 1903). He summed up: “It is a beautiful thing around the piquant sauce. But if the roast which goes with it is missing, it cannot satisfy me.”

The Graz composer and music critic Wilhelm Kienzl, a former student of Eduard Hanslick and Franz Liszt, described the Twelve Songs op. 66 in a music review as a clear example of “cerebral music”, which – and this must have particularly affected Reger – “is in strict contrast to the music from the heart of a Hugo Wolf” and in which “only one more [...] step towards the dissolution of the tempered tone system and into the realm of the tetrachord” is missing. He gave the song Du bist mir gut! (no. 4), “only apparently in C major”, as an example, in which “every melody note has its own key”. In the example of the Dehmel setting Die Liebe (no. 7) he also took issue with the “instrumentally conceived vocal part” which “wallowing in lengthenings, syncopations, slurred and unslurred leaps” did not reveal “any rhythmic structure”. He too used the obvious comparison with his famous contemporary: “A Richard Strauß song, by comparison – I do not exaggerate – is a true folk or children’s song. And where is that supposed to lead us?” (music reviews of op. 66 ) In 1908 Kienzl published his criticism again and, referring to current compositional trends, expanded the question: “[...] should the paths which Arnold Schoenberg pursues in his one-movement String Quartet op. 7, with talent in the same measure as lack of restraint [...], already be a fruit of Reger’s inspirations? How indeed could Reger be responsible for such a disaster?”1 The accusation of compositional-technical l’art pour l’art, of complexity for complexity’s sake, which subsequently also increasingly affected Reger’s chamber music, was then taken to its polemical extreme by the conductor and singing teacher Adolf Göttmann, Chairman of the Berlin Tonkünstlerverein in his collective review of opp. 66 and 68 published in October 1904 in Die Musik. He saw Reger in these songs as having “strayed onto such paths [...] that make a serious assessment of his further work difficult. [...] What the composer allows himself, with few exceptions, in these short songs in terms of cacophonous harmonic bombast, hazy rhythms and breathless eccentricity of melody, annoys us even more than his harmonious other-writing in principle than expected by common sense, purely external and formulaic. [...] This much is certain, that Reger’s demands on the singer with regards to phrasing and declamation, show quite plainly that he is either completely unclear about the capabilities of the human organ and about the characteristic exploitation of the rules of Sprachgesang (speech-song), or that he goes about composing with boundless superficiality.”

Both Göttmann as well as some his fellow critics orientated their judgements towards an ideal of “clarification”2 regarded as fixed, to which Reger probably did not aspire in his works. Thus Karl Thiessen’s laudatory statement that Reger “had often returned to greater simplicity in op. 66 [...] but without losing any effectiveness” (»Reger in seinen Liedern«, in Signale für die Musikalische Welt), does not seem to have been received by the composer as a compliment. At the very least, he described the review to his publishers Lauterbach & Kuhn as very superficial, but added the pragmatic comment: “In any case, however, the article again represents a big step forwards for me; for because of this, many singers will look at my songs & sing them!” (letter, 8 february 1903) There were still very few declared supporters amongst the critics. As Reger was unable to convince his friend Karl Straube to write a music review, (vgl. letter, 3. October 1902 to Straube) reliable supporters of his vocal music included in particular the music critic Theodor Kroyer from the Münchner Allgemeine Zeitung: “Engelwacht” [op. 68 no. 4], “Ruhe”, “Strampelchen” [op. 62 nos. 3 and 9], “Freundliche Vision” [op. 66 no. 2] [...] are delightful, glorious creations, full of richn“ess of imagination and spirit, it is the style of a Salvator Rosa, the style of the up-and-coming generation of artists.” (recension, 4 February 1903).

The often harsh reviews were a sensitive topic in Reger’s business relationship with Lauterbach & Kuhn from the outset. The business model of the new publisher was to produce a high-quality artistic product with the song editions which would appeal to all the senses. Following the modern Jugendstil idea, they used “the intentional artistic means in designing the title page to help disseminate musical works”3 and placed large publisher’s advertise- ments for the first printed editions of opp. 66 and 68. With the publication of the wedding songs, which they promoted as the “expression of the emotion of a blissful, boundless happiness” and the “high point in his [= Reger’s] lyrical output to date” (publisher’s advertisement in Signale für die Musikalische Welt), they once again unintentionally found themselves embroiled in the intellectual debate about the future of music, which contradicted this purpose. So they reacted sensitively to the reviews, which Reger also commented on ill-naturedly. The composer countered Göttmann’s invective with the sharp words “from a cow one can only expect a piece of beef” (Postcard dated 23 October 1904 to Lauterbach & Kuhn). Confronted with the bad reviews of the concerts with Auguste Vollmar and Augusta L’Huillier, he referred to insufficient preparation by the singers and the demands placed on performers by his songs, in which the vocal parts were independent and not supported by the piano, and consequently could not be mastered with previous practice routines.4 On the other hand, Reger used flattering words for the particularly accessible song Engelwacht op. 68 no. 4, in order to win the publishers over to the common cause: “Pay attention: the song “Engelwacht” from op 68 will bring you a small fortune; it is difficult neither for singer or accompanist. [...] By the way: would it not be an idea some time to produce a lower version for alto of op 68 no 4 “Engelwacht””? (letter dated 5 to 8 January 1903)

Reger’s proposal was not adopted in this case. It was only with Schlichten Weisen op. 76 that Lauterbach & Kuhn began to produce transposed editions. The tensions between publisher and composer triggered by bad reviews subsequently increased (see op. 70).


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Idem., “Max Reger. Instrumental- und Vokalwerke", in ibid., Im Konzert. Von Tonwerken und nachschaffenden Tonkünstlern empfangene Eindrücke, Berlin 1908, pp. 91–100; there: p. 98 (footnote ***).
According to Göttmann, Reger had “by no means come to terms with the concept of clarification” (ibid.).
Udo Andersohn, Musiktitel aus dem Jugendstil. 64 Beispiele aus den Jahren 1886 bis 1918, Dortmund 1981, p. 147.
Reger wrote to his publishers about the concert with Auguste Vollmar: “Reviews! I have to remark that Frl Vollmar was so agitated in “Freundliche Vision” that she completely ruined this song”. (letter dated 8 February 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn) After the song recital with Augusta L’Huillier he reported: “Frl Huillier sang my things very badly; in true French flippancy she believed that singing Reger’s music would be child’s play; in short, she simply had not studied the songs, so that in the concert I had to play the whole song melody in Freundliche Vision, and Morgen so that she did not grind to a halt.” (letter to Lauterbach & Kuhn dated 14 and 15 March 1903)

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 Referenzquelle diente die vielfach differenzierter bezeichnete Stichvorlage (siehe Zu den editorischen Besonderheiten von Band II/3). Die erhaltenen Entwürfe von Nr. 1 Eine Seele und Nr. 4 Engelwacht waren lediglich zum Verständnis der Werkgenese hilfreich. Die ab Herbst 1905 vorliegende Bandausgabe überliefert unverändert den Notentext des Erstdrucks.

3. Sources

  • Entwurf zu Nr. 1 (E)
  • Entwurf zu Nr. 4 (E)
  • Stichvorlagen Nr. 1, 3–6 (SV)
  • Stichvorlage Nr. 2 (SV)
  • Erstdruck (ED)

Weiterlesen in der RWA

Object reference

Max Reger: Six Songs op. 68, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 10th December 2022.


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