Reger, Max


Reger, Max

Der 100. Psalm Op. 106, Original version for chorus, orchestra and organ (Vocal Score / German & English text)

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Reger, Max

Der 100. Psalm Op. 106, Original version for chorus, orchestra and organ (Vocal Score / German & English text)


Preface of the full score

It was not until relatively late in his artistic career that Max Reger decided to set a sacred text as a choral symphony. On 24 January 1902 he wrote to the critic and musicographer Theodor Kroyer, “It will perhaps interest you to know that I’m now working on Psalm 149 for eight-part chorus with full orchestra and organ.” This does not imply, however, that he was occupied with its musical elaboration: he first made an intensive study of the original psalm text, “Hallelujah! Sing unto the Lord a new song.” More than ten years earlier he had already given thought to setting a psalm (Psalm 6, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger”) for the modest forces of mezzo-soprano, violin, and organ (he would later set the same psalm, minus some of its verses, in the like-named a cappella motet op. 110, no. 2). Nor did anything come of Psalm 149: he first had to postpone the project in order to complete Gesang der Verklärten (Song of the Transfigured, op. 71). But the idea of setting Psalm 149 remained in his mind for several years; his final reference to the text dates from June 1907. It was not until the end of that year that he abandoned the plan to set this text and asked his friend Karl Straube for a new one.

Psalm 100 was immediately accepted, and its composition proceeded all the more rapidly in view of its prospective performance during the 350th anniversary celebrations of the University of Jena. The university’s music director, Fritz Stein (1879–1961), had been an acquaintance of Reger’s since 1904 and was now a close friend, even serving as the godfather of his first child, Max Martin, in late 1907. Nothing stood in the way of a productive and inspiring period of compositional labor. The first section of the psalm was planned for Jena, and its elaboration occupied Reger from 24 April to early June 1908: “The psalm is anything but easy, but it proceeds in Tempo maestoso, so that all the coloraturas (not cholera turas) have to be done in toto – and the chorus is always supported by the organ or orchestra! […] Please, whatever you do, say the following to the privy councilors: I have not given them an occasional work, but a genuine Reger!” (letter of 6 May 1907, with Reger’s idiosyncratic emphasis).

Over the next six weeks Stein, using ad hoc performance material from Breitkopf & Härtel, had to rehearse intensively with the ensembles involved: the Jena Academic Chorus, the Singing Fraternity of St. Paul’s, and organist Kurt Gorn from the orchestra of the 71st Infantry Regiment of Erfurt, reinforced by members of the Weimar Court Orchestra. Reger asked Stein for “extra rehearsals to the brink of exhaustion” (13 June) or even “100000000000000000 rehearsals” (24 June), for “the psalm must be brilliant, so that everyone will be knocked off their feet! […] After it’s over the listeners must be stuck to the wall like a relief; I want the psalm to be earth-shaking in its impact! So please be so kind and make it happen!” Reger was highly satisfied with the festive performance given in the Town Church on 31 July. His reputation was further boosted by the award of an honorary Ph.D. during an official ceremony in the People’s House. Besides the first section of Psalm 100, another work from Reger’s pen was premièred on that occasion: Weihegesang (Song of Consecration, WoO V/6) for contralto, mixed chorus, and wind orchestra, for the inauguration of the new university building.

Reger only managed to complete Psalm 100 after the 1908-09 concert season and several other large-scale projects, including Symphonic Prologue to a Tragedy (op. 108), the Clarinet Sonata in B-flat major (op. 107), the two little Violin Sonatas (op. 103b), and the String Quartet in E-flat major (op. 109). He needed some six weeks, from mid-May to early June 1909, to elaborate the score; the vocal score was prepared immediately thereafter while he was already occupied with two other works, especially the motet Mein Odem ist schwach (My breath is weak, op. 110, no. 1) and his next choral symphony, Die Nonnen (The Nuns, op. 112). The process of proofreading the complete performance material lasted until late September. Though the vocal score was already published in September 1909, the full score had to wait until 8 December before it finally appeared in print. The première of the complete work was given on 23 February 1910 at two locations simultaneously: the Church of St. Luke in Chemnitz, with the church choir, the town orchestra, and the organist Georg Stolz, all under Reger’s baton; and the Breslau Singakademie, the Orchestra Association, and the organist Max Ansorge, conducted by Georg Dohrn. In general the reviews were extremely positive, not least because both concerts consisted entirely of new works. An analytical pamphlet by Benno Fleischmann appeared as early as 1909. Reger’s own satirical commentary, written for the 46th Festival of the General German Music Society in Zurich (late May 1910), was published along with many other commentaries on the festival in the periodical Die Musik. It reads as follows:

Psalm 100 for chorus, orchestra and organ, op. 106

by Max Reger

The words of the psalm will be familiar to all those who are not in possession of a harem. I am at a loss to say whether my setting of this psalm contains themes; I will be instructed in this matter by the critics. Adhere with absolute rigor to the tonic key of D major. It is said that the psalm falls into three section; listeners are expressly warned of several quite malicious pedal points. The main theme of the entire work, perhaps audible on occasion, is:

Max Reger

Since then many writers and performers have taken up Psalm 100. In 1955 the composer Paul Hindemith, after a hiatus necessitated by the Third Reich, initiated a new intensive study of the work in the form of a “performance arrangement” that sought to thin out Reger’s “barely penetrable compositional fabric” (Michael Kube). Hindemith’s arrangement says more about the aesthetic of his age and the views of the arranger than about Reger’s actual intentions. Nonetheless, the large amount of rehearsal time required for the original version in particular has often been an impediment to its performance, which explains why since then several arrangements have materialized, two for chorus and organ (by François Callebout and Hanns-Friedrich Kaiser) and another for solo organ (by Hanns-Friedrich Kaiser). But the original version, not a small choir, is required if Reger’s intentions are to be realized: to leave the listeners so deeply impressed that they “stick to the wall like a relief.”

Jürgen Schaarwächter, Max Reger Institute, 2014



Score No.






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