Expressive text-setting in the chorale fantasies of Max Reger

by Iddo van der Giessen | Photo's: Max Reger-Institut | Het ORGEL | Year 119 | (2023) | Issue 5

Max Reger, Fantasie über den Choral ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’ Autograaf, exemplaar voor Karl Straube Collectie Max-Reger-Institut Karlsruhe

Max Reger (1873-1916), born 150 years ago, composed 7 chorale fantasies between 1898 and 1900.  These are large-scale late-romantic organ works on melodies known in his time.  The forms of the chorale fantasies vary from chorale partitas to symphonic poems.  The content of the song is the central point.  Moreover, the musical form is directly connected to this.  Reger noted the texts in the score, so that the words and his notes are aligned.  The text determines the setting individual words or lines, sometimes even the whole fantasie or series of fantasies.  This article studies a number of examples:  the use of an ornamented cantus firmus, the use of descending dissonant intervals, and the transition from dark to light in the 3 chorale fantasies of opus 52.