Seventeen Songs op. 70

for high voice and piano

  • No. 1 Präludium

    Text: Martin Boelitz

  • No. 10 Hoffnungstrost

    Text: unknown

  • No. 11 Gegen Abend

    Text: Otto Julius Bierbaum

  • No. 12 Dein Bild

    Text: Ludwig Jacobowski

  • No. 13 Mein und Dein

    Text: Johann Georg Fischer

  • No. 14 Der Bote

    Text: K. Fick

  • No. 15 Thränen

    Text: Richard Braungart

  • No. 16 Des Durstes Erklärung

    Text: K. Fick

  • No. 17 Sommernacht

    Text: Franz Evers

  • No. 2 Der König bei der Krönung

    Text: Eduard Mörike

  • No. 3 Ritter rät dem Knappen dies

    Text: Otto Julius Bierbaum

  • No. 4 Die bunten Kühe

    Text: Gustav Falke

  • No. 5 Gruss

    Text: Otto Franz Gensichen

  • No. 6 Elternstolz

    Text: unknown

  • No. 7 Meine Seele

    Text: Franz Evers

  • No. 8 Die Verschmähte

    Text: Gustav Falke

  • No. 9 Sehnsucht

    Text: Ludwig Jacobowski

Komponiert in München, wahrscheinlich Januar/Februar 1903
Ludwig Hess

Performance medium
High voice; Piano

Work collection
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Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. II/3: Lieder III, S. 136–189.
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

As in the case of op. 62, Reger also had specific ideas from early on about the extent of his future op. 70: “I have promised Aibl 17 songs by the beginning of December at the latest” (letter), he confided on 9 August 1902 to his fiancée Elsa von Bercken about his next composition plans. Even when a change of main publisher from Aibl to Lauterbach & Kuhn was in prospect (see op. 66), he held to his intentions and informed the new business partner on 20 September 1902 of the “intention [...] to dedicate 17 new songs to Herr Ludwig Hess this winter” (letter). His collaboration with the Berlin-trained tenor had developed in winter 1901/02. On 4 January 1902 Reger had accompanied the performer, whom he described as “an outstanding singer [...]” )letter dated 22 November 1902 to Bertold Rebitzer), in Munich in some of his own songs and heard him a month later in Berlin in a performance of songs by Hugo Wolfs.133 The dedication of the new song opus was intended as a consideration in return for the willingness to “organise a Reger song recital in Berlin without demanding a fee!”134 Reger placed great expectations in this concert venture, which was also intended to secure him national fame. The down- side was ever-sharper reviews. In contrast to his publishers who, as lawyers, had no musical expertise and were reliant upon the judgement of third parties,135 Reger was under great pressure to succeed from the beginning. Again and again, he implored the business partners not to allow themselves “to be intimidated by an opposition to my works1

For his newest and most extensive song collection to date, Reger drew in particular on sources by his preferred poets. Otto Julius Bierbaum, Gustav Falke, Ludwig Jacobowski, and Franz Evers were all represented with two texts each, and he set one poem each by the writers Richard Braungart and Martin Boelitz whom he knew personally. Reger had already copied out the poem Die bunten Kühe by Falke in May 1902 for later use (see Opus 68). The setting of Eduard Mörikes’s Der König bei der Krönung was of special personal significance to him; this had been set to music a few years earlier by Hugo Wolf, a figure with whom he identified and whom he admired as an ar- tistic role model.3 With the choice of Gruß after Otto Franz Gensichen he invited a comparison with the song by Ludwig Thuille (no. 1 of Fünf Lieder op. 4), a representative of the “New Munich School”.4 He explained to Max Kuhn that he had compiled a selection of “the most wonderful texts, touching all all areas of human feeling” letter, 20 September 1902).

The ambitious schedule of delivering the engraver’s copies to the publisher at the end of December, so that the first printed edi- tions would be ready in time for the concert with Ludwig Hess at the beginning of March,5 could not be kept to. Rather, the composition only seems to have taken shape towards the end of the year. The only date of completion, of “3 January 1903”, is found at the end of the engraver’s copy of Sehnsucht (no. 9). The surviving sketches for numbers 1–16 show an order which differs slightly from the later printed version. The sketches for Präludium and Hoffnungstrost (later nos. 1 and 10) and for König bei der Krönung and Der Bote (nos. 2 and 14) were both notated together, and Sehnsucht was still the eleventh song. No sketch exists for Sommernacht after Franz Evers, with which Reger concluded the collection. For another Evers setting, Flötenspielerin, only the first page of the score survives, without performance instructions. (see Appendix) The text was only set in full in July 1905 as part of the Four Songs op. 88 in a completely different form.

Around the turn of the year 1902/03, when an exclusive contract with Lauterbach & Kuhn was signed, Reger committed himself to a new submission deadline of the beginning of February. (letter dated 29 December 1902 to Carl Lauterbach,) Shortly after this, he may at least have almost completed the sketch stage, because on 5 January 1903 he stated his intention of presenting the song Des Durstes Erklärung (““the very droll song””; letter to Lauterbach & Kuhn), which came last in the sketch version, with Ludwig Hess. The main elaboration of the songs, which Reger allowed to “mature & mature” (letter dated 8. January 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn), may have taken up the whole month. He revealed to the pianist Pauline von Erdmannsdörfer-Fichtner on 29 January: “At the moment I am very preoccupied with 18 Songs op 70; then comes the “Chor [sic] der Verklärten” for 5-part choir with large orchestra 71, then chamber music, then Psalm 149 for 8-part choir with large orchestra & organ [RWV Anh. B7]; in addition to this I am editing Bach’s Cantatas anew – I have now arranged 15 large keyboard works by Bach for organ [RWV Bach B6]!” (letter) At this point, op. 70 was still to comprise 18 songs, presumably including Flötenspielerin.6 On 1 February the Regers received a visit from Max Kuhn in Munich, who gained some insights into the as yet incomplete manuscript of op. 70 on this occasion.7 In the process, the composer was confronted with what was probably unexpected criticism from his publisher, which had a lasting effect on him. In October 1903, Reger returned to this subject: “My honesty forces me to tell you that at the time, when you, Herr Dr Kuhn were with me in January [correction: 1 February], it was not very pleasant for me to have to hear how you picked holes in my songs op. 70 (then still in manuscript), and declared several as complete failures! [...] I am convinced that you, dear Herr Dr Kuhn, certainly had the feeling yourself at the time in January, that you had gone much too far in your judgement of the manuscript songs in my house – and, I can assure you, it was not at all pleasant for me to hear, “I must get used to sometimes having worked in vain & to be able to throw a work onto the fire! [”] As far as throwing things onto the fire, I destroy enough things that I am not satisfied with, & send you only that which I fully stand by!” (letter dated 5 October 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn).

Despite this discouragement, Reger continued with completing the songs. He handed over the engraver’s manuscript personally to Lauterbach at the recital with Hess, which took place on 27 February 1903 in the Hôtel de Prusse in Leipzig, and was repeated on 2 March in the Beethovensaal in Berlin.8 The program included the Bierbaum setting Der Ritter rät dem Knappen dies, the first time a song from the unpublished opus was performed, which was sung from the manuscript.9 As a royalty for op. 70 Reger asked for 850 Marks, of which 50 M [...] interest(letter dated 20 February 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn) was to be deducted for publisher’s advances for the concerts. On 14 March Reger signed the copyright agreement with a note in his own writing about the performance rights, which should be split “1/2 & 1/2” (letter to Lauterbach & Kuhn). He corrected the proofs over Easter at his wife’s family home in Schneewinkel-Lehen and returned them to Leipzig on 15 April with the comment “2nd proof not necessary”” Postcard to Lauterbach & Kuhn). For a concert on 8 May with the soprano Sophie Rikoff in the Bayerischer Hof in Munich, Reger once again borrowed the manuscripts of the songs Hoffnungstrost and Der Bote (nos. 10 and 14) from the publisher.10 On 8 June Reger took receipt of 12 gratis copies of the impatiently awaited first edition, and seemed delighted with the quality of the cover design (“just as I like it best; simple, elegant, without superfluous additions!”; letter dated 9 June 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn ); for this, for the first time Lauterbach & Kuhn used a Jugendstil motif by Paul Bürck, a member of the “Darmstadt Artists’ Colony”.

The first edition was published under the title 17 Lieder. It was not until the edition available from about October 1905 that it was changed to Siebzehn Gesänge, which probably can be traced back to Reger (cf. his statement in the course of the work’s composition).


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Reger was in Berlin in order to attend the first performance of the Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue op. 57 in the Garnisonkirche Berlin given by Karl Straube on 20 February 1902. The dedication of the new song opus was intended as a consideration in return for the willingness to “organise a Reger song recital in Berlin without demanding a fee!” (letter dated 20 September 1902 to Max Kuhn) Reger placed great expectations in this concert venture, which was also intended to secure him national fame. The downside was ever-sharper reviews. In contrast to his publishers who, as lawyers, had no musical expertise and were reliant upon the judgement of third parties,2 Reger was under great pressure to succeed from the beginning. Again and again, he implored the business partners not to allow themselves “to be intimidated by an opposition to my works” (letter dated 20 September 1902 to Max Kuhn).
See Susanne Popp, Max Reger. Werk statt Leben. Biographie, Wiesbaden 2015, p. 171.
HWV 114/2. – On Reger’s varied commitment to Wolf in performance, editorials and features, to whose memory he dedicated his Twelve Songs op. 51, see, amongst others, Susanne Popp, “ “An Hugo Wolf“. Reger widmet sich Wolf”, in REGER-STUDIEN online, 10 September 2021, https://maxreger. info/resources/files/Popp2021AnHugoWolfRSonline.pdf.
Both in the case of Wolf and Thuille, Reger probably used the respective set- tings and not the poems by Mörike or Gensichen as text sources; see textual comparison [%Link].
See postcard dated 30 November 1902 to Lauterbach & Kuhn
The omission of this song was probably related to a change of plan regarding the cover design. On 20 January 1903 Reger had suggested using the drawing Flötenblasender Jüngling by Asta von Pirch, a cousin of his wife, for the cover title (see letter to Lauterbach & Kuhn). The publisher declined, so the connection no longer applied.
See postcard dated 30 January 1903
Announcement dated 20 February 1903: “The 17 new songs op 70 I will bring with the fully-checked Chorale prelude proofs op 67 myself! (letter to Lauterbach & Kuhn) .
The autograph score, also used as the engraver’s copy contains performers’ markings (see the Critical Report).
Reger sent Rikoff the manuscripts on 28 April 1903 with the suggestions on interpretation: ““Der Bote“ as tender and secretive as possible (the high notes all with head voice; only at the end at “ich solle grüssen“ with full voice molto espressivo. “Hoffnungstrost“ very high-spirited & lively.” (letter to Sophie Rikoff).

1. Reception

With the Seventeen Songs op. 70 Reger began the series of his “most advanced and uncompromising opuses 70 to 75”. As well as the Gesang der Verklärten for mixed voice choir and orchestra op. 71, this also included the Violin Sonata in C major op. 72, Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme for organ op. 73, the String Quartet in D minor op. 74 and the Eighteen Songs for voice and piano op. 75. In this group of works “the complication of all musical parameters [was driven] to the extreme”.1 In the realm of harmony, Reger consciously explored the boundaries of tonality. “With Reger we observe fully how the musical material is exploited in the most tremendous and unimagined combinations to the point of exhaustion”2, wrote Paul Zschorlich, predicting that the development initiated by Reger would lead to composition with quarter tones. Reger showed himself open to this quarter tone idea3, but did not make any attempts in this direction. As if he had predicted the forthcoming criticism especially with regard to his op. 70, he wrote to Zschorlich that he did not want a “death of melody” but that he “understood the concept of “melody” differently than usual!”4

In autumn/winter 1903 Reger and the alto Amalie Gimkiewicz also performed six songs from his new Opus 70 for the first time at concerts in Munich, Berlin and Breslau [present-day Wrocław]. These were Die bunten Kühe (no. 4), Elternstolz (no. 6), Hoffnungstrost (no. 10), Dein Bild (no. 12), Mein und Dein (no. 13), and Sommernacht (no. 17). Max Hehemann wrote about the song Präludium in 1906: “Such wildness as in this storm song has not often been captured in song form.”5 For Walter Fischer too, the essential characteristic of op. 70, alongside the “difficulty in execution”, was above all the ““elemental power of its musical language” and the range of expression.6 However, his criticism was that the declamation was “sacrificed to the piano accompaniment, i.e. [...] to the harmony” and judged the songs to be the result of an originality bordering on the strange: “As, in addition, the world of harmonies is painted differently in the head of this composer than with others, this naturally results in vocal parts which are inexplicable in themselves, and whose explanation remains difficult even in the guise of Reger’s unusually complicated harmony, figuration, and rhythm.”7 The organist Emil Bohn predicted a niche existence for the songs of Reger, who “did not care a bit about whether his interpreters and audiences felt at home in them"”. At best, “they might have a future as speciality items for a favored few. The composer and even more so, his publisher, will have to reckon with this.”8 This statement by an influential music critic is unlikely to have helped the already strained relationship between Reger and Lauterbach & Kuhn. However, the scepticism was not without foundation, for the Seventeen Songs op. 70 failed to reach larger circles in the first years after their publication. Exceptions were the approachable Hoffnungstrost [Nr. 10] and especially the setting of the poem Die bunten Kühe [Nr. 4] as a short, grotesque scene, unanimously praised by the critics at the first performance, and which went on to establish itself as a popular repertoire piece in Reger’s own song recitals.9

The dedicatee Hess, who increasingly sang as a baritone in his later career, was not able to help disseminate op. 70, as the songs – as he later declared – were “written in too high a tenor register, and [were] therefore unperformable” for him. He only gave the “first performance” of the seventeen songs in 1936 in Berlin, using a version “corrected in agreement with Reger for ease of singability”10 that is a transposed version. A corresponding source does not survive. However, there are already octave transpositions marked in pencil in the autograph engraver’s copy, that is in the rehearsal material from February 1903, in Ritter rät dem Knappen dies (no. 3).11

In 1909 the Berlin publisher Ed. Bote & G. Bock bought out the firm of Lauterbach & Kuhn and with this took over the stock of Reger editions. From 1916 the publisher gradually undertook a revision of the Reger editions; in the case of the re-issues with new title pages of op. 70 this was a particularly extensive task, and as well as correcting errors, it also included many arbitrary editorial decisions by the editors.12


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Popp (see note 65), p. 183 (as preceding citation).
Paul Zschorlich, “Viertel-Töne. Gedanken über Max Reger”, in: Die Zeit. Nationalsoziale Zeitung 2 Jg., no. 19 (5 February 1903), pp. 597–600; there: p. 599.
“Completely in agreement with “quarter-tone” [...]. I am there for every case! The practice was & is always more ground-breaking than the theory” (Letter dated 19 February 1903 to Paul Zschorlich, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 519).
Max Hehemann, “Max Reger als Liederkomponist, in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 72 Jg., no. 44 (25 October 1905), p. 871f.; there: p. 872.
Walter Fischer, “Vom Musikalienmarkt”, in Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung 30 Jg., no. 42 (16 October 1903), p. 648.
Ibid., as preceding citation.
Emil Bohn in the Breslauer Zeitung dated 16 December 1903.
The Munich critic Rudolf Louis, whom Reger regarded as an adversary, is said to have applauded “as if possessed” after the first performance of the song. best, (Letter dated 17 October 1903 to Lauterbach & Kuhn, as cited in Lauterbach & Kuhn-Briefe 1 (see note 6), pp. 226–228; there: p. 228.
Fritz Brust in Allgemeine Musikzeitung 63 Jg., no. 44 (October 1936), p. 678 (also the two preceding citations). The concert took place on 20 October 1936 in the Bechsteinsaal Berlin.
See the comments in the Kritischer Bericht
For information on the revisions in the re-issues with new title pages in the works published by Ed. Bote & G. Bock, see the Kritischer Bericht and the article Revisionen in Titelauflagen des Verlags Ed. Bote & G. Bock in the RWA online.

1. Stemma

Die in Klammern gesetzten Quellen sind verschollen.
Die in Klammern gesetzten Quellen sind verschollen.

2. Quellenbewertung

Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle grundsätzlich der Erstdruck zugrunde. Als Referenzquelle diente die vielfach differenzierter bezeichnete Stichvorlage (siehe Zu den editorischen Besonderheiten von Band II/3). Als weitere autographe Quelle wurde die unvollständige Erstschrift der Mit schwarzer Tinte. Schlussvermerke: Nr. 3 Ritter rät dem Knappen dies hinzugezogen, die jedoch noch Nr. 2 und 16: »Max Reger.« keine Vortragsanweisungen enthält. Die Entwürfe waren zum Verständnis der Werkgenese, nicht jedoch editorisch relevant. Die ab Herbst 1905 vorliegende Bandausgabe des Erstdrucks bringt keine Änderungen im Notentext. Revisionen wurden hingegen nach Regers Tod durch den Verlag Bote & Bock vorgenommen. Da diese der Vorzug gegeben für die Überlieferung des Notentextes relevant sind, werden sie in RWA online dokumentiert.

3. Sources

  • Entwürfe (E)
  • Erste Niederschrift Nr.3 (ES)
  • Stichvorlagen (SV)
  • Erstdruck (ED)
  • Revidierter Erstdruck (nach 1919)
  • Fragment Flötenspielerin, Autograph (A)

Weiterlesen in der RWA

Object reference

Max Reger: Seventeen Songs op. 70, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 10th December 2022.


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