Vater unser WoO VI/22

for three mixed voice unaccompanied choirs

Komponiert in Leipzig, September 1909 bis spätestens Mai 1911
Hermann Suter und der Basler Liedertafel. [geplant]

Performance medium
Mixed choir I [Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass]; Mixed choir II [Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass]; Mixed choir III [Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass]

Work collection
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Original work
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Reger-Werkausgabe Bd. II/9: Werke für gemischten Chor a cappella II, S. 28–80.
Herausgeber Christopher Grafschmidt.
Unter Mitarbeit von Nikolaos Beer, Stefan König und Dennis Ried.
Verlag Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart; Verlagsnummer: CV 52.816.
Erscheinungsdatum Oktober 2021.
Notensatz Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart.
Copyright 2021 by Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart and Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe – CV 52.816.
Vervielfältigungen jeglicher Art sind gesetzlich verboten. / Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law.
Alle Rechte vorbehalten. / All rights reserved.
ISMN M-007-26186-3.
ISBN 978-3-89948-418-2.

Vater unser


Matthäus (6,9b–13)

Text template
First edition

Template edition

Used for comparison purposes in RWA: Matthäus, in: Die Bibel oder die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments. nach der deutschen Übersetzung D. Martin Luthers, 1. Abdruck, ed. by Martin Luther, Halle 1892, p. 6–7.

Copy shown in RWA: DE, Münster, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek.


Note: Es ist nicht anzunehmen, dass Reger eine Vorlage zu Rate zog, sondern dass er das Vater unser in der Form verwandte, wie er es gelernt hatte. Ab Takt 182 benutzt er die altertümliche Wendung “und vergib uns unsre Schuld, als wir vergeben unsern Schuldigern”, wie sie etwa im Hannoverischen ordentlichen Gesang-Buch (1706, “Kurze Katechismusfragen”, S. 6), aber auch bei Matthias Claudius in seinem Beitrag “Ueber das Gebet” für den Wandsbecker Boten (Asmus omnia sua secum portans, oder, Sämmtliche Werke des Wandsbecker Boten, 3. Teil, 1777, S. 145, gemäß Matthias Claudius. Werke, 2. Band, Wien 1844) zu finden ist. In der Gesamtausgabe wurde diese Wendung als “mehr in Süddeutschland üblich” eingeordnet (Bd. 27, Wiesbaden 1961, S. X) und zu “wie” geändert.

Note: Im Autograph sind eine Reihe Ungereimtheiten bzw. Lücken stehen geblieben, die sowohl in der GA als auch in der von Karl Hasse ergänzten Fassung weitgehend behoben wurden.

1. Composition and Publication

After Reger’s return from Wiesbaden to Weiden in June 1898, he mainly arranged folk songs for male voice or mixed choir, and finally wrote some original unaccompanied choral works with his opp. 38 and 39. At the beginning of 1900 he expressed the hope to the organist and critic Alexander W. Gottschalg for the first time of “even getting round to some larger sacred pieces for large choir soon; e.g. the Vater unser for double choir would be a really nice task!” (Letter dated 17 February) Two years later, with regard to questions of faith posed by his fiancée Elsa von Bercken he announced: “Look out: I am soon going to compose the Protestant1 ‘Vater unser’ for 8-part choir!” (Letter dated 18 June 1902)

But it was to be several years before Reger actually began to work on the composition. At the beginning of 1908, he promised the Swiss composer and director of the Basler Liedertafel Hermann Suter: “[…] since your a capella choir is so wonderful that you can sing everything at sight, I will compose the ‘Vater unser’ for 8-part (mixed) choir and 4 solo voices especially for you, dedicate it to you and, of course, you will receive the first performance of it!” (Postcard dated 22 January) But it was not until the late summer of 1909 that the plan (with yet another change in scoring) finally took shape, as he reported to Karl Straube: “Hopefully I still have enough time before the concert rush starts to write the Vater unser (Protestant) for 12-part unaccompanied choir; I have long had this in mind & would very much like to do it” (Letter from between 9 and 13 September 1909). On 25 September he informed his friend about the progress of the work, which he was still sketching out: “The ‘Vater unser’ has progressed as far as the final fugue, I am already working hard on the latter! It is a chorale fugue with ‘Jesus, meine Zuversicht’. At the end, the chorale then enters in the upper voices (3) (that is all the sopranos)! ‘Jesus, meine Zuversicht’ has already been used as a chorale for the melody 2 of ‘Sondern erlöse uns von dem Übel’!” (Postcard) Just a few days later Reger asked Hermann Suter again for permission to dedicate the Vater unser to him and his choir.3 And it was presumably at a Reger concert in Bonn on 5 January 1910 that he offered his piano partner the music director Hugo Grüters the opportunity to premiere the work, but soon afterwards had to admit: “[…] unfortunately I cannot hold to my promise to you about the premiere of my ‘Vater unser’; I had completely forgotten that this work is dedicated to the Basel Gesangverein, & I cannot possibly withdraw the premiere from them.” (Letter dated 12 January)

When Reger announced the choral work (still as op. 110 no. 2) to the publisher Bote & Bock on 23 November 1909 for their “forthcoming ‘new season’s publications’” 4 he may not yet have begun work on the draft. On 29 December he reported to the music scholar Max Seiffert: “I hope to have finished the ‘Vater unser’ for 12-part unaccompanied choir soon.” 5 And on 6 February 1910 Reinhold Anschütz, a member of the Leipzig Gewandhaus management, finally heard: “It will probably interest you that I have just composed the “Vater unser” for 12-part unaccompanied choir.” 6 On 12 February Reger promised the conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Concerts Volkmar Andreae “for next winter […] also the wonderful ‘Vater unser’ for 12-part unaccompanied choir. There is no more beautiful poem than the ‘Vater unser’; I have just finished the work; I have conceived it in purely human terms as a suppliant, suppliant.” 7 At this point Reger had probably just completed the draft. But this appears to have survived incomplete, for the last sketched measure at the bottom right of the last surviving folio in no way constitutes a final measure.8

Reger presumably only subsequently began work on the written-out score. The first section (measures 1–252), ending with the plea “Sondern erlöse uns von dem Übel” [But deliver us from evil], matches the sketch in the autograph manuscript most closely. By comparison, Reger may have newly composed or written out the more strictly contrapuntal Doxology, which remained incomplete in the autograph, directly in fair copy, as it only corresponds with the surviving sketch in terms of its contrapuntal structure. In addition, in this section corrections and gaps in the musical text accumulate, incorrect text-music relationships have not been finally resolved, and the layer of performance instructions in red is almost entirely missing.

It is unclear how much longer Reger worked on the Vater unser. He may have put the autograph aside by spring 1911 at the latest, when the continuation of his motet plans took shape (see Motet “Ach, Herr, strafe mich nicht” op. 110 no. 2, Composition and publication). When he was approached in August 1911 by Joseph Schumacher, Counsellor of Justice and a mutual friend of Reger and Hugo Grüters, about the program for a planned 1912 Reger Festival, he responded to what was presumably a specific question: “I have put the ‘Vater unser’ aside – & not completed it, because I have come to the conclusion that this text is best composed for large-scale forces (chorus and orchestra & soloists).” 9

When Fritz Stein approached the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in 1937 with the suggestion of publishing Reger’s two major incomplete works, the Requiem WoO V/9 and the Vater unser, the Managing Director Hellmuth von Hase sought the advice of Karl Straube who held the autographs. Straube “was strongly opposed to a publication. […] He told me that Reger himself had described the ‘Vater unser’ as a failed work. It was too uniform in expression and the musical means used were insufficient to give the work the meaning intended.” (Letter from Hellmuth von Hase dated 23 November 1937 to Fritz Stein) After Straube’s death Stein then approached Reger’s pupil Karl Hasse in the mid-1950s with the request to complete the fragment. This completed version was premiered on 13 May 1956 in Meiningen by the Eisenach Bach Choir under Erhard Mauersberger and published in 1957 by Breitkopf & Härtel, edited by Stein.10 The original fragment was published for the first time in 1961 as part of the Complete Edition.11


Translation by Elizabeth Robinson.

Until the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), in the Catholic tradition the Vater unser did not include the Doxology.
For this section of the composition, the sketch simply contains Reger’s remark: “Jesus meine Zuversicht!”
Postcard dated 1 October 1909, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Handschriften; Nachlass Hermann Suter, shelf number: B V 55. – Instead of the incomplete Vater unser, Reger dedicated the Requiem op. 83 no. 10 to Suter and the Liedertafel in 1912.
Letter, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, Signatur: Ep. Ms. 439.
Letter, Städtische Bibliotheken Leipzig, Musikbibliothek.
Letter, Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Handschriften- und Musikabteilung, shelf number: Mus NL 076: L 659. – “Suppliant” is underlined 4 or 5 times.
The sketch initially remained in the possession of his widow. For unknown reasons she retained the first five thread-sewn double leaves (alongside the sketches to Die Nonnen op. 112, measures 1–238 of the Vater unser and two pages with a distinct similarity to measures 253ff., the Doxology) when she gave all the sketches still in her possession to the composer and pianist Günter Raphael as thanks for a house concert. These included at least one further folio (pp. 21/22) of the sketch for the Vater unser – half of what was originally a double folio.
Letter dated 9 August 1911, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Ep. Ms. 1415. – Karl Hasse conjectured: “Only the introduction of the chorale melody ‘Jesus meine Zuversicht’ as cantus firmus, through which an external enhancement of the composition and especially an inner affirmation of the symbolic-personal content was to be achieved, probably showed him that other means might be even more suitable for the ultimate possibilities of what he was articulating.” (“Max Regers unvollendetes ‘Vater unser’ für zwölfstimmigen Chor a cappella und seine Ergänzung”, in MMRI, Vol. 3 [August 1955], pp. 2–9; here: p. 3)
Karl Hasse’s engraver’s copy is preserved in the Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, shelf number: Mus. As. 007.
Vol. 27, pp. 155–196.

1. Reception

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

1. Quellenbewertung

Der Edition liegt als Leitquelle das fragmentarische Autograph zugrunde. Als zusätzliche Quelle wurde der Entwurf herangezogen. Der Entwurf des Chorals wiederum scheint bei der Ausarbeitung des Autographs keine Rolle gespielt zu haben.

2. Sources

  • Entwurf
  • Autograph (Fragment)
  • Entwurf des Chorals
  • Posthume Erstausgabe
Object reference

Max Reger: Vater unser WoO VI/22, in: Reger-Werkausgabe,, last check: 17th April 2024.


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