Thirty Little Chorale Preludes on the most common chorales op. 135a

for organ

Meinem lieben Freunde Hans von Ohlendorff ·

Performance medium

Work collection
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Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. I/4: Choralvorspiele, S. 138–165.
Herausgeber Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt, Stefan König, Stefanie Steiner-Grage.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.804.
Erscheinungsdatum Juni 2013.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2013 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.804.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-13938-4.
ISBN 978-3-89948-180-8.

Thirty Little Chorale Preludes on the most common chorales

1. Composition

Reger’s return to composing in this genre with the Thirty Little Chorale Preludes on the most common chorales op. 135a was partly in the context of his teaching and church music activities during and after his time as court Kapellmeister at Meiningen.1 Against this background, the key ingredients in the new collection were the ease with which it could be understood and played (easy to sight-read). In Opus 135a Reger took into consideration the conditions and requirements regarding Meiningen church music and composed for, as Hermann J. Busch wrote, “the limited potential of such [purely mechanical] organs in comparison with modern pneumatic organs, in order to meet the needs of the numerous organists who still played on such instruments even in the first decades of the 20th century”.2

As he had done 13 years earlier with op. 67, Reger also sought the advice of organists in the choice of chorales for op. 135a: on 11 August 1914 he asked the Meiningen church music director Hermann Langguth for details of “20 (better 20–25) of the most frequently-sung chorales in church services” including their common keys (Postcard). Langguth reported that he had sent Reger a “melody book” in response, “in which I indicated a number of chorales in detail”.3 According to a letter dated 21 August to Fritz Stein, by that point Reger had already “written 8 chorale preludes; I will write about another 12 pieces (for organ), so that there will be 20!” Stein was also to send immediately a list” of the most common chorales. Stein seems to have responded to this request straight away, for Reger thanked him on 27 August for the receipt of a consignment of chorales and “the comments on the same, which were and are naturally most welcome” (Letter).4 Op. 135a contains at least eight preludes, the chorales of which Reger had not previously set.

As work on the new chorale preludes overlapped with the composition of other works (also the Vaterländische Ouvertüre op. 140, see Opus 135a – Entwurfsblätter), the completion of the new opus dragged on for some time. Chorale preludes which Reger played in autumn 1914 in Hildburghausen and possibly in Meiningen probably bear some relation to the collection then in preparation.5

On 28 September 1914 at least 25 of the eventual total of 30 pieces were complete.6 Reger wrote to Fritz Stein and others about the musical structure of the preludes (“The new chorale preludes will be terribly easy; ‘Kinderschule’ [primary school]”, Postcard) and to Karl Straube (“Now I am working on very, very easy, childishly simple chorale preludes for the organ”, Letter).

2. Publication

On 24 November 1914 the composer finally submitted the engraver’s copy, reiterating the easy playability of the pieces (“every organist can play this work!”) to N. Simrock and gave the publisher the manuscript. In the covering letter the composer also demanded an alphabetical order for the pieces,7 the position of the manual instructions respectively before the manual brackets and a relatively spacious music image (“please do not have it engraved too condensed”); four days later he suggested: “Please have op135 engraved in landscape format!” (Letter) The copyright agreement with assignment of copyright is dated 3 December 1914.8

On 3 March 1915 Reger confirmed the receipt of the sets of proofs, promised to send these back before a journey to Holland (8 to 15 March) and found words of praise for the music engraving: “By the way – after a brief look through – op135a seems to have been splendidly engraved.” (Letter) On 6 March Reger sent the corrected proofs back to Simrock-Verlag (Letter) and asked for the dedication of the chorale preludes to Hans von Ohlendorff to be added (Postcard).

When submitting the engraver’s copy Reger had announced that he wanted to bring several works together under the opus number 135; on a postcard dated 23 April 1915 to the publisher, he again recalled the designation op. no. 135“a” for the chorale preludes and enquired about the publication date. However, the printing was delayed and Reger enquired once more about it on 17 May: “When, finally, are the chorale preludes op135a going to appear?” (Letter) With the same letter he also submitted the Fantasia and Fugue in D minor op. 135b as a more weighty counterpart. He finally confirmed receipt of his author’s copies of op. 135a on 26 May (Postcard).


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

In 1912/13 he conducted music examinations at the teachers’ training institute in Hildburghausen and from 1912 to 1916 gave church music recitals in Eisenach, Hildburghausen, and Meiningen.
Busch 2007, p. 27.
Festschrift zur Reger-Feier in Meiningen, 24. und 25. Februar 1923, p. 19, Langguth’s annotation.
The list sent by Stein does not survive, nor is there any indication of whether Reger corresponded with other organists or Protestant theologians on the question of the “most common” chorales used in Protestant worship.
The Hildburghausen concert program from 20 September lists “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott” then as “for the first time”. On 6 November Reger may have improvised in turn in Meiningen on the chorales “Lobe den Herren” and “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (later nos. 15 and 28).
See letter to Adolf Wach, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, self number: N.Mus.ep. 1438.
As the engraver’s copy is now missing, the original order in which the pieces were written cannot be established.
Publisher’s contract/assignment of copyright, Staatsarchiv Leipzig.

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. Regers autographe Stichvorlage ist nicht erhalten. In Zweifelsfällen wurden gegebenenfalls zusätzlich die erhaltenen Entwürfe herangezogen.
Die von Reger autorisierte Harmonium-Bearbeitung von Karl Kämpf blieb aufgrund der unterschiedlichen Idiomatik der Instrumente bei editorischen Entscheidungen von sekundärer Bedeutung. An manchen Stellen weichen in der Harmonium-Bearbeitung aus spieltechnischen Gründen einzelne Töne von der originalen Orgelfassung ab; auf diese wird im gedruckten Band in Fußnoten zum Notentext hingewiesen.
Die Postkarte an den Verlag N. Simrock betrifft einen Druckfehler in Nr. 9.

3. Sources

    Object reference

    Max Reger: Thirty Little Chorale Preludes on the most common chorales op. 135a, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 17th April 2024.


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