Sacred songs op. 110
Motet »Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht« op. 110 No.2
for seven-part mixed voice unaccompanied choir
|Reger-Werkausgabe||Bd. II/9: Werke für gemischten Chor a cappella II, S. 82–99.|
Unter Mitarbeit von Nikolaos Beer, Stefan König und Dennis Ried.
|Verlag||Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlags- und Plattennummer: CV 52.816.|
|Copyright||2021 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.816.
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At the start of 1911 Reger set about continuing his series of Sacred Songs op. 110, begun two years earlier, with the Motet “Mein Odem ist schwach”. But his notes from the first half of the year cannot be clearly linked to either of the two motets which followed. On 18 January he wrote to the singer Gertrud Fischer-Maretzki: “I have just compiled texts from the Bible for an extremely sad motet for 5-part unaccompanied choir; […] I will tackle the ‘matter’ as soon as possible” (postcard). The compilation of texts clearly points to “Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht!” op. 110 no. 2, but the description to “O Tod, wie bitter bist du” op. 110 no. 3. In a letter probably dating from February outlining his composition plans for the summer to the publisher Bote & Bock, he listed a “Motet op. 110 no. 3 (a quite wonderful text from the Bible; this motet will be much, much simpler and easier than ‘mein Odem ist schwach’ op. 110 no. 1).” 1 On the other hand, this could mean that Reger had not yet given up his planned setting of the Vater unser (WoO VI/22) at this point, originally envisaged as op. 110 no. 2. But what happened with the “compiled text”? On 12 May Reger then wrote to the Bielefeld organist and conductor Wilhelm Lamping for the first time about the “new motet op 110 no 2”,2 finally referring to “Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht!”.
Reger first specifically mentioned the composition he had begun on 26 July 1911 in a letter to his future employer Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen: “At the moment I am working on a motet for 5-part mixed choir ‘Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zorn’ (unaccompanied); I have compiled the text for this myself from the Bible.” 3 A few days later he already had “2 parts finished; the 3rd part (conclusion) will soon be finished in Tegernsee!” 4 On 10 August the composition work seemed to be complete,5 and two days later Reger added the date of completion at the end of the engraver’s copy. The dedication to the Musikalische Gesellschaft Dortmund and their conductor Carl Holtschneider may have resulted from their successful performance of the Motet “Mein Odem ist schwach” op. 110 no. 1 at the first Reger Festival in May 1910 in Dortmund.
Details of the printing process are not known. A registered letter from 14 August 1911 might document the submission of the engraver’s copy, and one from 31 August the return of the set of proofs.6 The first printed edition was presumably released together with the other new autumn publications in October 1911.7
Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.
Although the reviewers of the surprisingly late premiere on 11 December 1913, given by Fritz Busch and the Städtischer Gesangverein Aachen, praised sections of the motet, they unanimously identified the final fugue as a problem. In the Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung, Heinrich Hobbing pointed out “that Reger placed almost incredible demands on the choral singers. Consider this: for almost half an hour1 they have to sing unaccompanied in the most difficult vocal contortions and nevertheless maintain purity of intonation. This is something which is impossible. […] And so, what was destined to happen happened, the ending with its fugue theme failed. I have hardly ever grasped the words with which the motet begins in a more heartfelt way: ‘Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht mit deinem Zorn.’ [O Lord, punish me not with Thy wrath]” (Review)2 In the Signale für die Musikalische Welt the reviewer even argued in favor of the “disintegration of the Finale”. “The almost superhuman demands […], which he places on the performers until the entry of the fugue are to some extent compensated by often wonderful sound images. But then the difficulties increase to become immeasurable, whereas the effectiveness sinks in proportion.” (Review) And Joseph Liese ultimately heard “a wonderful work which achieves the greatness of Bach in one passage, if it were not for the fugue: ‘Du tust mir kund den Weg zum Leben’ [You show me the path to life], as the text says. This path is endless and barren.” (Review in Die Musik)
Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.
Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle der Erstdruck zugrunde. Als zusätzliche Quelle wurde die Stichvorlage herangezogen.
- Stichvorlage Partitur
Max Reger: Motet »Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht« op. 110 No.2, in: Reger-Werkausgabe, www.reger-werkausgabe.de/mri_work_00131.html, last check: 6th July 2022.
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