Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue in E minor op. 127

for organ

  • I. Introduction
  • II. Passacaglia
  • III. Fuge
Karl Straube zugeeignet

Performance medium

Work collection
  • -
Original work
  • -
  • -


Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. I/3: Phantasien und Fugen, Variationen, Sonaten, Suiten II, S. 106–150.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.803.
Erscheinungsdatum Juni 2012.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2012 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.803.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-09754-7.
ISBN 978-3-89948-170-9.

1. Composition

After completing the Suite in G minor op. 92 in July 1906, Reger composed only very few, mainly small-scale works for organ in the following years (see Chronology of the organ works); orchestral, choral-symphonic and chamber music predominated (see the annual Worklists). In October 1912, however, he received a commission from the city of Breslau, which had “built a large concert hall with a huge organ to commemorate the 1813 year of liberation;1 this new concert hall with organ is to be dedicated in summer 1913; now I am to write something for this celebration: to write a new large work for organ with orchestra; I have accepted”. (Letter to Duke Georg II)

Because of his unremitting teaching and concert appearances (see Konzertsaison 1912/13), Reger was only able to begin work on the composition in April 1913; he abandoned his plan for a concerto in favor of a work solely for organ2 and chose a form which he had already tried out in his opus 96 for two pianos (1906). On 20 April for the first time he reported to the dedicatee, Karl Straube, on the progress on the work: “Of the op. 127 Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for Organ (!!!) (E minor), the Introduction is already finished; I am working right now on the Passacaglia.” (Postcard to Karl Straube) He described the character of the work to Fritz Stein as classically transparent; I am making a stand against all ‘extravagance’, against all ‘excesses’ etc. etc. in every respect. This is the ‘fruit’ of Meiningen; I have profited splendidly from this ‘health cure’ and it is not only good for me, it would be necessary for many others!” (Letter)

A few weeks later – the autograph date of completion is given as 16 May 1913 – the composition was finished (including deletions, see engraver’s copy), as Straube also learned: “So the organ work is finished; I will bring it to you next Thursday on 22 May (Postcard). On 21 May he again pressed Straube to come to the Conservatoire the following day: “I would really appreciate being able to play the piece through for you on the piano.” 3 No more is known about this meeting.4

2. Publication

On 23 May 1913, one day after the supposable meeting with Karl Straube (see Composition), Reger submitted the work, already announced as “a major organ work” (Letter to Ed. Bote & G. Bock) to the publisher, accompanied by the request, amongst several, to send Straube as soon as possible a model copy of the work” and to publish it only after the premiere. (Letter) When sending the copyright agreement on 25 May, he expressed his sincere delight, “that you have accepted this work for publication, for you will have a great success with it”; a further performance “next winter […] in Berlin” (ultimately on 8 November 1913) was at least planned at this point. At the same time he made a request: “[…] before you have the model copy made for Herr Prof. Straube, please send me a set of galley proofs; the model copy should only be made after checking these, so that this copy for Herr Prof. Straube is free of misprints.” (Letter)

Reger received the proofs, no longer extant, by 14 June and returned them to the publisher already on 16 June: “[…] it is not necessary to send me a new proof! After correcting these mistakes, the model copy of the work can be produced for Herr Prof. K. Straube […] which is very, very urgent; – However, please do not have the work finally printed now; perhaps Herr Prof. Straube […] will still find misprints”; these should be “able to be corrected before the final printing”. (Letter) It is not known when Straube received his model copy (now also missing), particularly as no correspondence between the two friends survives from the period between 14 June and 26 September. Up to 27 June this, however, seems not to have been the case: “Hopefully Herr Prof. Straube […] will receive the model copy of op. 127 very soonafter the successful correction of the mistakes. It is high time.” (Letter to Bote & Bock) Compared with the engraver’s copy, the first printed edition contains significant differences with regard to the performance markings. These may have originated to a considerable extent from suggestions from Straube, who evidently did not just correct possible misprints (see below).

Theoretically Reger and Straube could have met during July (the 24th July was Reger’s last day of teaching in Leipzig) in order to discuss possible alterations. If they did meet, then at any rate this had no influence on the time schedule for the publication of the work. Reger wrote to Hans von Ohlendorff on 2 August from his holiday in Kolberg, that op. 127 was to be published “on 1 Oct. by Bote & Bock 5. On 6 September he had to refuse a request from Ohlendorff: “Unfortunately I cannot give you a proof of my new organ work op. 127; I will explain the reasons to you when we meet; there are a whole host of reasons.” (Letter; there was a possibility of meeting Ohlendorff on Reger’s return journey to Meiningen6.) What exactly Reger meant by this is unclear. It may, however, be assumed that he knew of Straube’s evidently wide-ranging suggestions for alterations by this time, at the latest.7

After the premiere on 24 September Reger wrote to Straube: “Please, do me the great kindness of sending me a message as soon as possible about how it was in Breslau” and suggested a meeting on 2 October in Leipzig (Postcard). On this day he resumed his weekly composition teaching at the Conservatoire. The meeting did not take place, since Straube was in Copenhagen from at least 30 September to 3 October.8 On 30 September Reger had to put Hans von Ohlendorff off once again: Unfortunately I cannot provide you with a copy of op. 127 – you know – the reasons why; incidentally I have urged today that op. 127 be published as soon as is ever possible.” (Letter) The reminder referred to is found in a letter to his publisher dated 1 October: “When, finally, will my op. 127: Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for organ be published!” 9 This can only mean that at this point, Reger did not know that the publisher was still waiting for the return of Straube’s proof copy.

On 13 October Reger reminded Straube: “It is extremely awkward that you have not yet sent op. 127 to Bote & Bock; I’m receiving ever more desperate telegrams from them because of you, because you have not sent them op. 127! Please do this immediately.” (Postcard) On 16 October Reger taught as normal at the Leipzig Conservatoire. On 18 October he wrote to Straube: “Hopefully you have sent op127 to Bote & Bock!” (Postcard) It is conceivable that Straube had promised to do this at a meeting on 16 October. Elsa Reger answered repeated requests from Ohlendorff likewise on 18 October: “Yes, why doesn’t Straube send it? Who would know that; Max sends one reminder after another; but nobody changes Str. it is often hard.” (Letter) Between 19 October and 15 November Reger was away on concert tours and was only in Meiningen on 21, 24, 25 and 28 October. On 18 November he was finally able to confirm the receipt of his author’s copies. After its publication, op. 127 was hardly mentioned again in Reger’s correspondence.

It would be understandable that Straube wanted to retain his proof copy after the premiere, in order to check his alterations in two further performances on 30 October in the Leipzig Thomaskirche and on 8 November in the Berlin Garnisonkirche under more favorable acoustic conditions10. The subsequent corrections, the printing and all of the bookbinding work would then have proceeded in a remarkably short period of time (see Overview). It is also conceivable that Straube simply sent his proof copy to the publisher after the presumed meeting on 16 October, received a new advance proof with all of the alterations made in good time before his Leipzig concert, and the publisher allowed more time for the final printing. It seems unlikely that Straube would have given the revised copy to the publisher without Reger having seen it himself, especially in light of the so-called Kleine Orgelmesse from op. 59, edited by him “with the consent of the composer”, which, with regard to the performance markings displays considerable differences from the original.11


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Work on building the organ actually only began in November 1912. Testing by Karl Straube, who was responsible both for the specification as well as the design of the console, took place on 22 September 1913. See Martin Balz, Die Orgel der Jahrhunderthalle in Breslau und das op. 127 von Max Reger, in Die Orgel im Konzertsaal und ihre Musik, ed. Klaus Wolfgang Niemöller, Sinzig 2010 (= Edition IME Series I: Schriften, Vol. 15), pp. 109–122.
See letter dated 16 April 1913 to Duke Georg II, in Herzog-Briefe, p. 464. In it, there is only mention of an “organ work”. As early as 1901 Reger worked on an organ concerto (WoO I/7) which, however, remained uncompleted and is now missing.
In a further postcard, the same day, Reger asked his friend to write to the Breslau Music Committee immediately, saying that he had “received the manuscript of the organ work from me for the centennial celebrations”. The addition of the postscript “otherwise I won’t receive my honorarium” showed this to be a strategic measure.
It is assumed, however, that it took place. This assumption is supported by the fact that Reger again returned the proofs to the publisher a day before a planned meeting with Straube – on a postcard relating to this dated 14 June he reported in passing about the receipt of the proof copy (Straube-Briefe, p. 229).
Postcard, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 1241. See also the postcard dated 26 August 1913 to Johann Joseph Schumacher: “[…] there will be published at the end of September: op. 127: Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for organ” (Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 1391).
“[…] I will expect you on Tuesday 16 Sept. in the morning at Pension Schmidt, Berlin, Unter den Linden 60.III. I will stay at home specially and will definitely expect you. You will probably come to me about 10:30 o’clock.” (Postcard from Reger dated 11 September 1913 to Hans von Ohlendorff, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 1250)
Reger evidently did not discuss this topic with Fritz Stein, who was also in Kolberg from 8 to 15 September 1913. At any rate, there is no mention of it in Stein’s notes Stunden mit Max Reger (Max-Reger-Institut, shelf number: D. Ms. 71). He merely noted on 9 September: “Reger played me the new organ pieces op. 127”. There may, however, be a mistake here, as two days before, Reger had completed the Nine Pieces op. 129 and otherwise must have taken the manuscript of op. 127 with him on holiday. It is not known, whether Straube visited Reger at Kolberg.
See Straube’s letter dated 2 October 1913 to his wife, in Briefe eines Thomaskantors, p. 23f.
In his review of the premiere, Ernst Neufeldt warned of excessively fine registration, amongst other things: “That won’t work in a dome which is eight meters in diameter.” In 1937 the acoustic of the Jahrhunderthalle was improved (Martin Balz, Die Orgel der Jahrhunderthalle in Breslau und das op. 127 von Max Reger, in Die Orgel im Konzertsaal und ihre Musik, ed. Klaus Wolfgang Niemöller, Sinzig 2010 (= Edition IME Series I: Schriften, Vol. 15), p. 117).
According to a letter from Reger to Henri Hinrichsen dated 5 July 1912, he himself undertook the proof-reading of the organ pieces (see Peters-Briefe, p. 484).

1. Reception

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

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 zusätzliche Quelle wurde die autographe Stichvorlage herangezogen, die sich hinsichtlich der Vortragsangaben jedoch teils erheblich vom Erstdruck unterscheidet. Der Entwurf war bei wenigstens zwei Stellen hilfreich (Takt 6 der Introduction, Takt 33 der Passacaglia).
Die von Reger bearbeiteten Korrekturfahnen sowie der von Karl Straube verwendete exemplarmäßige Abzug (vgl. Herausgabe) sind verschollen; ein Status quo ante ließe sich daher nicht verlässlich rekonstruieren.

3. Sources

    Object reference

    Max Reger: Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue in E minor op. 127, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 16th June 2024.


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