Psalm 100 op. 106
for mixed voice choir, orchestra and organ
Der 100. PsalmPsalm 100
Der hohen Philosophischen Fakultät der Universität Jena zum 350jährigen Jubiläum der Universität Jena
|Reger-Werkausgabe||Bd. II/11: Chorwerke mit Klavierbegleitung, S. 60–121.|
|Herausgeber||Christopher Grafschmidt, Claudia Seidl.
Unter Mitarbeit von Knud Breyer und Stefan König.
|Verlag||Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlags- und Plattennummer: CV 52.818.|
|Copyright||2022 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.818.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
Like the Vater unser WoO VI/22 and the Motet “Mein Odem ist schwach” op. 110 no. 11, for example, Reger took a long time over the plan for a psalm setting before he finally set about composing the work.2 The future Opus 106 has its origins in an idea for a project which Reger first reported to the critic Theodor Kroyer on 24 January 1902: “It will probably interest you that I am now working on Psalm 149 [“Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied”] for 8-part choir with large orchestra & organ [RWV Anhang B7]”. However, at the end of the year he postponed this project in favor of the Gesang der Verklärten op. 71.3 On 3 December 1903 he in turn admitted to the critic Josef Hofmiller: “And besides, I am itching badly to get on with my Psalm 149 for 8-part choir with large orchestra & organ” (letter). A year and a half later he returned to this idea, when he put off the conductor Ferdinand Löwe, who asked him in July 1905 to give the Vienna premiere of the Sinfonietta op. 90, offering “one of my later orchestral works – can a choir also be included – ??” (Letter dated 27 July). Shortly afterwards, Reger became more specific: “I am now thinking that I can offer you with a work for choir and orchestra the first performance; […] I have a Psalm in mind; in which the orchestra is at least equal to the choir (with organ.)” (Letter dated 30 July) However, Löwe’s ambitions seem to have focussed on works which were already completed.4 Reger’s plan was not initially carried out, but was then pursued, as he reported on 1 April 1907 to Adolf Wach, a member of the Gewandhaus management: “Besides, for a long time I have been “plagued” by Psalm 149 for large choir, orchestra, & organ!” (Letter)
About two months later Fritz Stein, music director at the University of Jena, must have informed Reger about a planned commission for the 350th anniversary of the institution in July 1908. After Stein “had secured the agreement of some influential professors in the faculty”,5 Reger offered “to compose a setting of Psalm 149 […] for mixed choir (which could occasionally be used in 8 parts), orchestra & organ! […] I think it is all right to sing this Psalm at an anniversary celebration!” (Letter dated 7 June to Stein) Possibly because of the temporary planned change of performance venue to the Stadtkirche Jena, Reger again turned to Stein at the beginning of November 1907 in the search for an alternative text: “Please, discuss with the relevant cleric which Cantata (text please) I should set for the festival service!” (Postcard dated 5 November 1907) Karl Straube, whom Reger frequently entrusted with finding texts to set to music, also became involved at the beginning of December, but now there was no further discussion of a cantata: “Please, please find me a Psalm for Jena!” (Postcard dated 5 December 1907) Psalm 149 was evidently no longer being considered. Straube must have come up with an acceptable suggestion in response to the enquiry of 18 December6, for Reger assured Stein on 27 December: “I will compose a setting of Psalm 100 for Jena [“Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt” (Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands)], please, have a look at it; I believe it is certainly the most suitable!” (Postcard)7
Nevertheless, Reger did not immediately start work on the composition, as he had to turn to work under pressure on the Violin Concerto op. 101 and on the Piano Trio op. 102, the premieres of which were agreed for March 1908.8 In addition, he was still waiting for the approval from Jena: “[…] why have I still heard nothing official about our matter in hand? Please arrange this as soon as possible!” (Postcard dated 25 January 1908 to Fritz Stein) On 24 April the singer Martha Ruben, who was running the household whilst Elsa Reger was at a sanatorium, told Karl Straube: “He has begun the Psalm today!” (Postcard) As the work was now to be performed during the festival service, it was not to be too long, so that Reger initially decided to compose just the first section. He was therefore able to announce to Stein on 6 May: “Your Psalm is finished; I am just about to complete the orchestration, to gradually prepare the piano reduction; it was a terrible task! […] Of course nothing can be printed of the Psalm beforehand; that is impossible; […] If you could be in touch with copyists, you can have all the choral parts comfortably ready by 10 June! […] You can then have the orchestral parts copied from the score […]. The Psalm is not easy; but it moves at a Tempo maestoso, so that all the coloraturas (not Choleraturas) all are achievable – in addition the choir is always supported by the organ or orchestra!9 […] Please, say the following to the Geheimräthe [Privy Councillors] without fail: I have not supplied an occasional work for the gentlemen, but a truly genuine Reger!” (Letter) Following a suggestion from Stein to have the choral parts “hectographed”10 (letter dated 9 May 1908 to Stein) for the performance, Reger contacted the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, who immediately agreed11 and produced the complete performance material during the month of June.12 However, the wish of Hermann von Hase, the director of the publishing house, “not to only engrave the works, but also to publish them” (letter from Hermann von Hase dated 9 June 1908 to Reger).13, remained unfulfilled.
On 22 June Reger received from Jena “the confidential news that last Saturday [20 June] the Faculty of Philosophy there resolved, indeed unanimously to appoint me Dr phil. h.c.! The award of the honorary doctorate is to take place on 31 July a.c. [annus currens = current year] at 11 a.m.” (Letter dated 22 June 1908 to Adolf Wach)14 Stein had worked behind the scenes “[i]n the quiet intention of achieving for the then still struggling master, rejected by the “authoritative” critics, to obtain the honor of a Doctor honoris causa from the Philosophy Faculty on that day, and thereby an official recognition of his artistry”.15 It is unclear at which point Reger became aware of Stein’s efforts. Stein spoke about this, that Reger “probably guessed”16 it. The first known comment by Reger on this dates from 6 May 1908, when the date already set for the performance of Psalm 100 now combined with his honorary doctorate led him, through Stein, to repeatedly assure the academic decision-makers of his sincerest efforts, and in so doing, to express his conviction that he deserved this award: “In the process, you can & must incidentally ensure that all the Geheimräthe [Privy Councillors] get to hear that I have just been appointed a Member of the Royal Swedish Academy! So that I would therefore not be so unworthy of becoming Dr. h.c.!” (Letter to Stein)17 According to Stein Reger’s “main worry [seemed to be] to make a good impression amongst the men of science, some of whom had grave misgivings”.18 Reger acknowledged Stein’s commitment after the anniversary celebrations: “I know very well that you were the driving force behind the Dr. “humoris” affair, and I will be tremendously grateful to you for this great, great service of friendship for the rest of my life!” (Letter dated 2 August 1908 to Stein)
After the first performance of the first part of Psalm 100 conducted by Fritz Stein on 31 July 1908 Reger was so taken up with other composition work19 and his extensive concert activities in the winter season that he was only able to announce to Karl Straube on 18 May 1909, on his return from a journey to London: “In the very next days I will be turning to the Psalm!” (Postcard) Two days later he informed Stein: “Please, say to all the Jena folk that I am just about to complete the Psalm; I hope to have it finished at the end of July i.e. it will be absolutely definitely finished!” (Postcard dated 20. May) But Reger’s early hopes of securing Straube for the first performance of the complete Psalm were disappointed.20 Irrespective of this, the work continued apace,21 and at the beginning of June Reger was already working on the final fugue22.
In mid-May Reger had approached his new main publisher Bote & Bock in order to obtain the release of the String Quartet op. 109 for C.F. Peters,23 however, Hugo Bock did not want to relinquish the work “under any circumstances”. (Telegram dated 20 May to Reger) Instead, he left it up to him to offer Peters Psalm 100 that had been promised to him, which Reger then did;24 on 2 June the proprietor of the publisher Henri Hinrichsen must have accepted the offer25. Likewise, at the end of May, Reger asked Stein to return the piano reduction of the first part,26 and two weeks later requested individual copies of the parts to be sent to him. (See letter dated 13 June)
On 22 June 1909 Reger added the date of completion to the engraver’s copy of the score, two days later announced that he was checking the proofs to Hinrichsen,27 agreed an appointment with Straube for a last checking through together,28 looked at the score once more, and advised Hinrichsen on 30 June of his arrival: “[…] on Wednesday 7 July in the afternoon I will bring you the score. The orchestral parts, organ part, choral parts of the 1st section of the Psalm have already arrived from Jena!” (postcard dated 30 June 1909)29
After Reger had delivered the piano reduction and performance material of the first part and the completed score to Hinrichsen on 7 July and signed the copyright assignment30, he must have taken the second part (measures 153–349) of the score back in order to continue work on the piano reduction31 – so initially, the complete first part and the score of the third part (final fugue) went to print. Already on 10 July he was able to inform Hinrichsen “that the piano reduction of the second part of the Psalm is ready & waiting; I would now be very, very grateful if I could receive the score of the third part of the Psalm quite soon, so that I can complete the piano reduction as soon as possible.” (Letter) The mutual handover presumably took place on 14 July.32 Reger delivered the reduction of the third part to Hinrichsen on 23 July33 and signed the royalty receipt34.
On 18 August Hinrichsen sent the proofs of the piano reduction to Kolberg,35 where Reger was spending his summer holidays. Reger worked on these on 21 August36 and must have returned them shortly afterwards37. The choral parts of the second and third parts were consequently engraved from the corrected piano reduction.38 On 4 September Reger received the proof copy of the first part of the score, which he returned on 13 September.39 The following day the publisher sent the proofs of the second and third parts to Kolberg,40 which Reger returned on 23 and 28 September respectively41.
In Hofmeisters Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht the piano reduction was advertised in the October 1909 edition, and score, orchestral, and choral parts were to be available in November.42 On 7 October Reger responded to a letter from Hinrichsen evidently indicating this: “Many thanks for your kind letter; the piano reduction of the Psalm will follow with the choral parts as soon as possible; please, then send me a couple of copies immediately!” Reger expressed his thanks for the receipt of the “magnificently produced” score on 8 December (letter) after he had returned to Leipzig from an absence of over a week.
Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.
Referring to the premiere of the first part of the work on 31 July 1908 in Jena, Stein was instructed by Reger: “[…] the Psalm must go [underlined six times:] brilliantly, so, that it will be an “absolute knockout”! […] The listeners to the Psalm must stick to the wall afterwards as “relief”; I want the Psalm to have a shattering effect! So be so good & attend to it!” (Postcard dated 24 June 1908 to Stein) This performance did not receive any attention outside Jena, and Hermann Schmid simply reported of the concert that most of the audience found “the great beauties inherent in the work remained incomprehensible and enigmatic” (Jenaische Zeitung). However, the desired effect was confirmed by observers of later performances: “One is completely stunned from the start, but is allowed to recover somewhat in the more tender parts in the middle. […] People were completely shattered at the end.” (Ernst Eduard Taubert, in Die Musik)
There were also attempts to promote a better understanding through explanations in the program booklets;1 Reger did this on the occasion of the performance at the 46th Tonkünstlerfest of the ADMV in Zurich in 1910 in his own characteristic way: “The words of the Psalm will be familiar to anyone who does not own a harem. Whether my composition of this Psalm contains themes, I do not know; I will be taught this by the reviews. […]” (Introduction).
The strategically novel double premiere on 23 February 1910 in Chemnitz and Breslau [present-day Wrocław] was widely and largely positively received in the Feuilletons (review sections). The reviewer in the Neue Musik-Zeitung was almost perplexed: “Still under the impression of what I heard, of what I experienced, it is unspeakably difficult for me to express here all the deeply-felt, the uplifting and divine of that hour.” Despite the secular occasion of the work’s composition, its effect “on the religious soul of any confession is extremely profound. […] And when the Lutheran chorale “Eine feste Burg” is heard at the end,2 a musical high point is reached of such overwhelming effect that it is difficult for the listener not to join in the sweeping floods of sound.” (Review) Reger had suggested to the Swiss conductor Volkmar Andreae that the use of the chorale would make the work “almost “popular” at the end” (letter dated 24 August 1909). Alfred Aumann had “the feeling that present greatest master of contrapuntal technique is no longer treading paths where people are absolutely unable to follow him, but that he is also capable of pursuing more even-handed approaches. In Psalm 100 the passages in which the peaceful prayerful sound is expressed leave a particularly strong impression.” (Neue Musik-Zeitung)
Joseph Schink acknowledged Reger “as Bach’s most intelligent pupil”, thereby justifying the “extended text repetitions”, among other things, criticised elsewhere as anachronistic. He, however, had particular difficulties with the use of the chorale: “One will hardly be able to say that its appearance is logically justified. For a powerful ending of the whole, it works admirably. The fugue itself, unfortunately, is lacking a climax and in addition, is completely overwhelmed by the chorale melody marching on in the trumpets and trombones. Not much can be perceived of its artistic construction with the naked ear.” (Die Musik) On the other hand, the composer Ernst Flügel made no secret of his broad dislike of Reger’s style and complained about what he regarded as a striking discrepancy between the message behind the text and the means used to set it to music. “When the choir, after a timpani roll on c, begins its “Jauchzet” [rejoice] bar by bar successively in D major, E major, F major, G major and E flat major, it does not sound like praise and thanks, but like cries of fear from the deepest distress, for which the word “Rettung” [salvation] would have provided a far more suitable text underlay than the Psalmist’s joyful shout. After this infernal pedal point on c and two subsequent outcries of “alle Welt” [all the world] at fff a pianissimo entry of the choir follows on “dienet” [serves], which diminishes to the softest breath within a few measures. With a 300–400-strong choral society […] this indeed sounds very beautiful, but is such a crass contrast with the text justified? Never again.” At any rate, his “assessment of the relationship between the artistic means employed and the result achieved” was: “Much ado about nothing!” (Schlesische Zeitung)
The performance in Munich on 6 May 1910 under Fritz Cortolezis led, among other things, to the conclusion in Der Sammler “that such a composition can only be mastered by the performers by repeated public performance, and for that reason, we wish that Cortolezis and his faithful fellow performers […] do not shy away from the trouble of a repeat, which would also be of inestimable use for the listeners.” (Review) The critic Rudolf Louis, whom Reger did not like, also found a repeat desirable, but did not spare his praise (“impressive creation”, “exceptionally interesting, much of great beauty”), and yet came to the conclusion: “Insofar as Reger’s music is an expression of sentiment in this Psalm (or wants to be), I have the impression of a very refined, but ultimately hardly deceptive hypocrisy.” (Münchener Neueste Nachrichten) Meanwhile, Reger’s student Alexander Berrsche stated with satisfaction that “even the terminology of Reger’s opponents has taken on more civilized forms”. For the fact that “the value of this work does not consist solely in the mastery of the form – however masterly this is – but rather that everything, from the first measure to the last is glorious music, is self-evident in a work by Reger” (Augsburger Postzeitung).
On the occasion of the prestigious performance at the 46th Tonkünstlerfest of the ADMV in Zurich on 27 May 1910 under Volkmar Andreae, Ernst Isler believed he had recognized Reger’s inner motivation: “His strong awareness of God inspired him to a work which belongs to the most moving sacred musical creations of all times, which nothing can equal in recent times after Brahms’s “German Requiem”.”3 In a music review published at the end of 1909, Isler had drawn a similar conclusion: “Here, the much-misused description “a brilliant masterpiece” can really be used once more. Apart from Beethoven’s “Gloria” from the “Missa solemnis” and Bach’s “Sanctus” in the B minor Mass, I truly know of no more powerful choral piece”. (Schweizerische Musikzeitung und Sängerblatt) On the other hand, despite all the praise heaped on the work, Paul Schwers had a problem not only with the proportions of the work – “[…] it is a daring piling up of massive boulders, but I do not see any symmetry, any division” –, but also with the Lutheran chorale: “What exactly does this battle chorale aim to achieve in this joyful, jubilant Psalm? The linking seems violent and unmotivated by the content to me.” (Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung) Herman Roth responded to the overwhelming lack of understanding of Reger’s use of the chorale in his program booklet text for the Leipzig performance on 8 June 1910. For him, the chorale in this “religious work of art in a universal sense [… was] elevated beyond its significance as a confessional song of battle and defence to a more comprehensive symbol of faithful confidence through its combination with the psalm text”, although he diagnosed that Reger’s nature “despite all musical-technical sovereignty was ultimately inwardly attuned to primitive-elemental effects”.
The performance in Leipzig under Karl Straube was rather critically reviewed by Walter Niemann, although he recognized “Reger’s exorbitant pure musical talent and compositional art, his playful mastery of all the arts of counterpoint […] without envy and with admiration”. Nonetheless, he criticized “the fact that the lack of inner flow only becomes flowing movement there and remains in it where Reger loses himself in Bach”. His conclusion: “The wave of an almost outrageous overestimation of Reger, […], which corresponds with the current overestimation of everything musical-artistic, matching the unclear, incessant cry for progress in Germany, will and must stream back. Despite undeniable high individual beauties […] it will probably also carry this Psalm back to the sea of oblivion one day.” (Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten) Naturally, this could not remain uncontested, after the Signale für die Musikalische Welt had made Niemann’s review available to a wider audience as a “notable attempt to do justice to Reger by all means, and yet to demonstrate his fundamental weaknesses”.4 Karl Hasse defended Reger and pointed out “that only a tremendous inner energy can bring about such astonishing achievements so that the soul is perhaps all the more involved, the less it shows on the surface” (article).
With regard to the ever-present reference to Bach, Hasse had however stated in March of that year in comparison to the Gesang der Verklärten op. 71: “Here Reger has followed Bach much more closely. Protestantism, with its clearer art, more attuned to the earth than the mystical joys of a heaven filled with incense, reveals its dominant influence here. The visionary has given way and has made space for a powerful immediacy of feeling. The depth and intimacy has not disappeared because of this, it has just become healthier, more manly, more “Bachian”, more German.” (Article)
In the opinion of the reviewers, Reger’s Psalm 100, which Ernst Isler had placed on a level with the German Requiem (see above), did not stand up to direct comparison with the Brahms work on 16 November 1910 in Berlin. “At music festivals, where the mediocre tends to predominate, Reger must naturally stand out […]. But here, in a more demanding environment, […] the dimensions of the work presented themselves much more differently.” (Vossische Zeitung) Otto Leßmann reported similarly: “What a contrast between this work, struggling for the gigantic but not inwardly moving, and the Brahms Requiem, touching and shattering in its noblest, most serene beauty of sound, reaching the deepest depths and highest heights of human sentiment. How modest are the means used here and how powerfully gripping is the effect. The Requiem and this Psalm contrast with each other like two completely different views of the world.” (Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung)
The fact that the chorale made a particular impression in Berlin was probably also due to the forces, as Siegfried Ochs reported: “At Reger’s request we had doubled the number of these heavy men, that is, sixteen of them were at our disposal. Reger was very happy with the effect achieved, whereas I myself and most of our listeners were under the impression that these trombones from Jericho had blasted the whole thing into the ground.” (Der deutsche Gesangverein) But this was precisely the effect which Reger desired, as he had suggested to Volkmar Andreae on the occasion of the performance in Zurich: “Please, make the choir as large as possible; at the end it must sound as if the world is collapsing; & when the chorale in the final fugue comes in the trumpets & tenor trombones, it must sound like the Last Judgement!” (Letter dated 11 February 1910)
The double performance in the Christmas concert by the Heidelberg Bachverein on 11 December 1910 under Philipp Wolfrum turned out to be a triumph, especially as the Grand Duke of Hesse travelled specially from Darmstadt “with his consort and retinue”, talked with Reger for “a long time” during the intervals, and subsequently declared himself to be “very appreciative” of the concert (N. N.).5 Some reviewers also gave a positive report of Reger’s interpretation of the text: “The marvellous words of the psalm […] sounded completely new in Reger’s brilliant adaptation, like an artistic revelation. He made the dramatic structure of the text the basis of his musical form, and by penetrating ever deeper into the secret of the dramatic form, the gigantic sound painting arose, the massed grouping of which takes place before the throne of the Almighty, and whose dramatic features show the realms of the blessed.” (Mannheimer Tageblatt)
While there were still many performances in 1911, in terms of effort, the reception they received did not bring any new reactions. It is remarkable that, after the English premiere of Psalm 100 in the London Music Festival on 22 May 1911 under Sir Henry Wood, the reviewer in the Times, like some of his German colleagues before, harbored the suspicion “that it is the outcome of an active intellect rather than of an emotional purpose”, and postulated that the Lutheran chorale was “the only use of definite melody in the whole work” (review) – an aspect which had still had a positive connotation in Wolfrum’s preparatory article for the performance in Heidelberg in December 1910: “It is not “melodies” which initially attract the singer (on the contrary, these repel him at the beginning, so greatly do they go against the ideal of the beautiful and singable), but what occupies him is the rhythmic energy, the harmonic richness, and the dynamic refinement with which the words of the psalm are set.” (Heidelberger Zeitung)
In the ensuing years the inclusion of the work in concert programs reduced considerably. Hermann Wilhelm Draber’s earlier prediction after the performance at the Tonkünstlerfest in Zurich, that people “should not be at all surprised if, in years to come, this Psalm is adopted as an introduction to official speeches at major events” (Signale für die Musikalische Welt), turned out to be wishful thinking. In order to provide an easier version for performance, in 1955 Paul Hindemith reduced the orchestration and cut eleven measures in the double fugue. Highly symbolically, this new version6 received its first performance at a gala concert by WDR in November that year on the occasion of Hindemith’s 60th birthday, conducted by the composer.
Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.
Aufgrund der Bestimmung des Klavierauszugs als Hilfsmittel zur Einstudierung des Werks liegt der Edition als Leitquelle für die Gesangsstimmen sowie für die allgemeingültigen Tempoangaben der Erstdruck der Orchesterpartitur zugrunde, für die Klavierstimme der Erstdruck des Klavierauszugs; punktuell fehlende dynamische Angaben oder Artikulationszeichen u.Ä. in Vor-, Zwischen- und Nachspielen des Klaviers werden entsprechend der Umgebung ohne diakritische Auszeichnung nach der Orchesterpartitur ergänzt.
Als Referenzquellen wurden die Stichvorlagen der Orchesterpartitur zugrunde und des Klavierauszugs herangezogen; die Entwürfe spielten für die Edition keine Rolle.
Es ist denkbar, dass Reger bei der Erstellung des Klavierauszugs oder der Bearbeitung von dessen Korrekturabzug manche Stellen im Chor bewusst oder unbewusst anders auszeichnete als in der Orchesterpartitur bzw. gar den Notentext änderte, diese bedeutungstragenden Abweichungen jedoch nicht durch Nachtrag in der Orchesterpartitur, deren Korrekturabzug er als Letztes bearbeitete, für das Werk an sich legitimierte.
- Stichvorlage der Partitur
- Fragment der Partitur
- Stichvorlage des Klavierauszugs
- Erstdruck der Partitur
- Erstdruck des Klavierauszugs
Weiterlesen in der RWA
Max Reger: Psalm 100 op. 106, in: Reger-Werkausgabe, www.reger-werkausgabe.de/mri_work_00126.html, last check: 10th December 2022.
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