Reger, Max


Reger, Max

Die Nonnen (The Nuns) Op. 112 for mixed choir and orchestra (Vocal Score with German and English libretto)

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Max Reger
(b. Brand, Oberpfalz, 19 March 1873 — d. Leipzig, 11 May 1916)

‘Die Nonnen’ (The Nuns) op. 112

for mixed choir and large orchestra (1909)
on a poem by Martin Boelitz (1874-1918)

Information to the piece:
On 7 August 1909 Max Reger reported from Leipzig to Karl Straube (1873-1950): “I hereby proclaim to you that the ‘Nuns’ are finished down to the last jot and tittle!” He resumed his report in a letter of 13 August from Kolberg on the Baltic Sea: “So the ‘Nuns’ are in print. You already know the first two stanzas, of course. The third, whose words are naturally known to you, is ‘constructed’ as a sort of ‘basso ostinato’ of the freest imaginable sort; I believe I’ve made a good job of it. Now I’m in the midst of the ‘choral gibberish’! […] The Psalm [Psalm 100, op. 106] is finally down on the plates; I’ve already corrected the vocal score and just finished proofreading the first section of the full score! The Psalm has turned out to be a fine thing! It must sound capital! I think I’ve also achieved a proper volume of sound in the third section [of The Nuns] (the first two stanzas are not quite as suitable to this purpose) at the ‘basso ostinato’ when the Savior appears to the nuns! Here’s the caper: everything is in F major, but three trumpets and two tenor trombones blow D and G in octaves; the business is immediately repeated on D, F#, A# and C# with D# and G# in the brass, and on F#, G#, B# and D# with E# and A# in the brass! The nuns are sure to be ‘bedazzled’ when they fancy envisioning their Savior in the flesh, and I believe I’ve done a quite good job of capturing the dazzle.”

Roughly a year earlier, on 22 July 1908, Reger had written to Straube: “The first stanza of the ‘Nuns’ is finished; the poem has three stanzas, and it will turn out to be a very peculiar thing.” Further news on The Nuns was dispatched to Straube on 26 April 1909. After mentioning the completion of the E-flat major String Quartet, op. 109, Reger continued: “I’ve got a marvelous text for a choral piece, strange to a degree! Wholly novel in mood. It’s by Boelitz.”
Once the piece had appeared in print, Reger wrote on 10 February 1910 to Wilhelm Lamping (1861-1929): “I would, of course, be absolutely delighted if you were to perform the ‘Nuns’ after the Psalm! Or would it be too much to do both, the Psalm and the ‘Nuns,’ on a single evening? I hope you won’t find the music to the Psalm and the Nuns all-too abominable.” On 22 February he reminded Reinhold Anschütz: “Do remember too that I’ve given the première of the ‘Nuns’ to the Gewandhaus, and we absolutely must keep to that agreement.” He sang the praises of Boelitz’s poem in a letter of 23 May to his publishers, Bote & Bock: “It’s a mood-painting of the sort that has no equal in the whole of our choral literature to date! The poem has the most wonderful imagery.” Another letter to Bote & Bock along the same lines followed on 28 May: “But I won’t write the ‘Song of the Nuns’ in that ‘glee club style’ that Strauss used in Salome to depict the Prophet Jochanaan! Contrary to the mystic and sensual mood of the rest of the poem, I shall deliberately keep the Song of the Nuns in an antiquated style — for example, in an ancient ecclesiastical mode reminiscent of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. This can and must give the piece quite a winning air! I shall set this twofold Song of the Nuns for nothing more than a women’s chorus accompanied solely by violas (divisi!) (with the voices in the accompaniment), and I shall use the accompaniment to achieve an utterly dry and ‘virginal’ sound that must stand out quite sharply from the timbre of the other verses. One can achieve a huge climax at the words ‘Sieh, und aus dem goldenen Rahmen tritt der Heiland nun herfür’ [Behold, the Savior now steps forth from the golden frame]! Then the ending, in supreme transfiguration! I already keenly look forward to the time when I can get around to writing this piece!”

Die Nonnen was Reger’s third large-scale choral symphony after Gesang der Verklärten op. 71 (‘Song of the Transfigured Ones’ after Busse, 1903), which had been rejected by Lauterbach & Kuhn, and directly following the gigantic Psalm 100 op. 106, completed on 22 June 1909. Its successors were Die Weihe der Nacht op. 119 (‘The Consecration of the Night’ after Friedrich Hebbel, 1911), a fragmentary Latin Requiem (1914), Der Einsiedler op. 114a (‘The Hermit’ after Eichendorff, 1915), and the Requiem ‘Seele, vergiss sie nicht’ op. 144b (‘Forget them not, my soul’ after Hebbel, 1916)….


Read full preface to  score > HERE

Score No.





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