Karl Straube's influence on Reger's organ works

Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt


Karl Straube was not only one of Reger’s closest friends, but he was without a doubt also his most important adviser in artistic matters and in matters relating to practical musical life. Reger occasionally discussed plans for compositions with him, and together the two friends searched for texts suitable for setting to music. From the time Straube moved to Leipzig in 1907, Reger used to review manuscripts he was working on with Straube, discuss these and works which had just been completed, irrespective of their genre. There has been much speculation about how much influence Straube had on such occasions on the actual shape of the work, however, very little can be ascertained. For on the one hand, important parts of the relevant correspondence are missing,1 and on the other, discussions, at least from 1907, took place mainly in person. Precisely because reliable statements by Reger or Straube or their direct circle are missing, the musical sources have a special importance.

Christopher Anderson summarizes: “[…] the issue of Straube as Mitkomponist will be unavoidable for anyone attempting a critical edition of Reger’s music. Both Straube’s supporters and detractors have tended to cast the circumstances of his involvement in extreme terms, some of which have evolved into stereotypical notions […], others of which have digressed into applicable hypotheticals […]. If Straube’s impact upon Reger is ever to be comprehensively analyzed, that analysis will have to proceed on a case-by-case basis over hundreds of situations and musical passages arising in widely varying circumstances.”2

As far as the organ works are concerned, the interim result is that Straube’s direct influence on the musical text of most of the works can hardly be assumed, or at most to a very limited extent. On the other hand it is well-known that Straube was involved in at least the early stages of the composition of the Variations and Fugue op. 73, insofar as he gave the impetus for this work and also suggested its form (see Composition). In principle, something similar is conceivable for almost every work and is therefore possible in individual cases.

Straube only received the autograph fair copies made for his practical use of the major organ works composed between 1898 and 1900 (see Manuscripts for Karl Straube) after Reger had sent the respective engraver’s copies to the publisher. Exceptions to this are the Sonata op. 33 and the Chorale Fantasia op. 40 no. 1. Here, Reger sent the first copy of the Sonata to Straube before making the engraver’s copy – evidently deliberately in order to seek his opinion of the work; the manuscript has a considerable number of entries by Straube and Reger which were incorporated into the final version of the work (see Composition). Reger reshaped the Chorale Fantasia following a suggestion from Straube (see ).

A comparison of the manuscript sources with the first printed editions does not reveal a systematic revision or any kind of outside influence during the correction stages of any of the organ works of the Weiden or Munich periods – except the tempo markings etc. of op. 69 (see and Unterschiedliche Vortragsangaben).

For op. 127 the findings are different. The engraver’s copy and first printed edition differ considerably in their manual, dynamic and tempo indications and it can be assumed that these alterations originated to a large extent from Straube (see and Unterschiedliche Vortragsangaben). Likewise, with op. 135b Reger revised the performance markings in the proofs, and in at least some of the interventions, suggestions from Straube seem probable (e.g. Fugue, bar 40). Both works have deletions in the manuscript, but these preceded consultations with Straube. In opus 135b deletions were also made in the first proofs, the first of which must also have been made before a meeting with Straube (see and Korrekturschichten).3

As a rule, Reger destroyed correspondence sent to him after dealing with it. His letters and postcards to Straube only survive incomplete and in copies, particularly as Straube’s residence and with it, his library were destroyed by fire during the air raids on Leipzig. The first surviving letter from Reger to Straube is dated 7 May 1901 – a point by which Reger’s major Weiden organ works were already complete. Here it is unclear from written records to what extent any exchange may have taken place about compositional questions, particularly since Straube later said: “Such an undertaking is no concern of other people. It is a discreet matter between individual personalities, and the outside world need only express an opinion on the published work as a whole.” (Letter dated 24 April 1943 to Hans-Joachim Nösselt, in Briefe eines Thomaskantors, p. 150). This remark can be interpreted as an indication of a methodical selection from the surviving body of letters. Remarkably, however, Straube did give information to third parties about opp. 33 and 40 no. 1, the only Weiden organ works in which he really did have any influence on the musical text at the manuscript stage.
This point is of particular interest insofar as Bernhard Huber has established a striking chronological correlation between Reger’s discussions with Straube and the occurrence of cuts in the manuscripts of the Leipzig period, and has drawn the conclusion “that red deletions [i.e., deletions of passages which already contained performance instructions] originate from his collaboration with Straube” or that Reger extended “his usual practice dating from before the Leipzig period of making deletions in black to text marked in red under Straube’s influence” (Huber 2008, p. 226).
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Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt

Elisabeth Robinson (en)

1st July 2015

Module IOrgan works

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Alexander Becker, Christopher Grafschmidt: Karl Straube's influence on Reger's organ works, in: Reger-Werkausgabe, www.reger-werkausgabe.de/rwa_post_00010, last check: 18th May 2024.


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