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Hugo Riemann, Karl Straube, and problems of structural coherence in the performance of Max Reger’s organ works

October 25, 2023
Max Reger at the Sauer organ of the Leipzig Conservatory
Max Reger at the Sauer organ of the Leipzig Conservatory

As one of the most renowned organ virtuosos and organ pedagogues Ludger Lohmann has exerted a lasting influence on organ culture. His career as a recitalist, which has brought him to many churches, cathedrals, and concert halls all over the world, started with awards at important international competitions, such as the competition of the German Broadcasting Corporation in Munich 1979 and the Grand Prix de Chartres 1982.

Born in Herne, Germany, in 1954 he studied organ with Wolfgang Stockmeier and harpsichord with Hugo Ruf at Cologne Musikhochschule. While writing a musicological doctoral thesis on “Articulation on Keyboard Instruments of the 16.–18. Centuries,” he received important artistic stimuli from Anton Heiller in Vienna and Marie-Claire Alain in Paris. The dedication to this artistic legacy motivated him to regard his own pedagogical work as equally important in his recitalist career. In more than forty years, first at Cologne Musikhochschule, and since 1983 as professor at Stuttgart Musikhochschule, he has educated numerous talented young organists from all over the world, many of whom are now doing remarkable artistic and pedagogical work themselves. A central concern was always striving for an interpretation of musical works according to the stylistic conventions of the times of their origin, departing from the insights gathered in his doctoral dissertation, which became standard reading, and later broadened by many publications concerning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Musically they are documented in his numerous CD recordings.

His artistic and pedagogical impact has led Ludger Lohmann throughout the world as guest professor, teacher of masterclasses, and jury member of international competitions. He was part of the organ research project GOArt of Göteborg University as senior researcher. As organ consultant he has led organbuilding and restoration projects in several countries. To honor his manifold activities the British Royal College of Organists awarded him its first honors medal. In 2023 he received the prestigious German “Prize of European Church Music.”

Editor’s note: the scores to works mentioned in this article may be found online for free access.

Max Reger, Zwölf Stücke, opus 59

Reger, Introduction, Passacaglia, und Fugue in E Minor, opus 127

Reger, Fantasie und Fuge über B-A-C-H, opus 46

Reger, Organ Sonata No. 2, opus 60

Franz Liszt, Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H, S. 260

J. S. Bach, Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542

The sesquicentennial of the birth of Max Reger (1873–1916) has given new life to the reception of his enormous oeuvre. Among the many works of this astonishingly productive composer, only the organ pieces—the number and importance of which are rivaled only by Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ works—have enjoyed a constant presence in public concerts. This fact is not the least due to the efforts of Karl Straube (1873–1950), Reger’s closest friend and arguably his most important advocate during his short life. As the most influential German organ pedagogue of the first half of the twentieth century, Straube motivated generations of the most talented young German organists to become avid Reger performers. Their influence, in turn, can still be felt today particularly regarding certain parameters of Reger performance, since they tended to emulate Straube’s teaching method, which relied heavily on the principle of copying the master, usually starting to learn a new piece by literally copying all indications (fingering, articulation, and phrasing) from the teacher’s personal copy. Thus many details of Straube’s personal performance style, which sometimes are not consistent with Reger’s own indications, are still firmly entrenched in what might be called mainstream Reger performance practice. Straube’s students never, at least not in principle, questioned their validity but regarded them with a kind of Biblical faith, given the fact that Reger always heaped high praise on his friend’s performances of his music.

Straube’s ideas became a second layer of performance indications, sometimes overriding those given by the composer. As the authority that he was in German organ culture, Straube might even have contributed inadvertently or intentionally to the canonization of his ideas. We will never know whether Reger, in cases of conflicting indications, really preferred Straube’s ideas over his own. This must remain in doubt, particularly since Straube did not preserve Reger’s letters from the Weiden years, i.e., Reger’s most productive period regarding organ music, ostensibly because he did not want future generations to get an insight into an intimate exchange touching many aspects of the genesis of Reger’s music—possibly also not due to potential disagreements on matters not only of composition but also of performance practice.

In his monumental doctoral dissertation, “Reger, Straube, and the Leipzig school’s tradition of organ pedagogy: 1898–1948,”1 Christopher Anderson has described the Straube-Reger relationship with its many positive but also problematic aspects in detail. The new and definitive biography Max Reger: Werk Statt Leben2 by Susanne Popp touches this subject only briefly. Some basic problems of Straube’s style of Reger performance have been commented upon by Wolfgang Stockmeier in a volume, Max Reger 1873–1973—Ein Symposion,3 published on the occasion of Reger’s 100th birthday. Some of Stockmeier’s observations will be further developed in the present article, the aim of which is not in the first place to criticize Straube but to point out some very common clichés of present-day Reger performance, some—but certainly not all—of which might have originated in Straube’s practices. These practices can be learned from Straube’s editions of some Reger pieces published during the composer’s lifetime and also from listening to recordings made by some of Straube’s students.

When looking at the editions, some blatant contradictions, particularly regarding dynamics and agogics, can be noted. They expose some fundamental differences of opinion about how to deal with certain musical phenomena like the preparation of a culmination point. Here the name of Hugo Riemann (1849–1919), the most influential German music theorist of the late Romantic period and Reger’s composition teacher, comes into play.4 Reger very closely adheres to Riemann’s performance recipes, which can be found in his various treatises,5 whereas Straube, while generally being in agreement with Riemann’s theories, sometimes appears to come from a different school of thought. The fact that a performer would change a composer’s detailed performance indications in an edition of his own seems almost unthinkable today, but was all too common a century ago.

Certainly Straube’s aim in the first place was to make some of Reger’s best-known pieces more accessible; he might even have seen a justification for his interventions in Reger’s compositional process, or at least in his way of preparing a final fair copy of his works as the basis for an edition. Reger first wrote the musical text proper in black ink and later added all instructions pertaining to performance in red ink. Of course, it would be naive to assume that the genesis of a piece’s overall musical structure did not already include at least a rough concept of dynamics and movement, but details were probably determined only during this late “red ink stage,” thus easily leading to the impression that they were accessories rather than essential elements of the composition.

As a concert organist who has regularly played Reger’s works all over the world throughout a fifty-year career, I had many opportunities to observe typical problems of the reception of Reger’s music, problems that might have led a majority of colleagues mainly in English- and French-speaking countries to reject this music altogether. According to my experience the single biggest problem, apart from listeners’ difficulties of following Reger’s often over-complex musical textures, is what I would call a lack of coherence. This is first of all due to Reger’s tendency to compose free works like preludes or fantasias in a patchwork style: rather short musical phrases in certain textures are separated from each other by concluding chords. Even when the player goes from one passage to the next in an organic way by letting the listener feel a continuous metrical flow (albeit shaped by rubato twists and turns), the danger is that the piece falls apart, the all-too-frequent “stop and go” effect, tiring the listener and preventing an effective emotional buildup.

“Toccata in D Minor,” opus 59 (Zwölf Stücke), number 5

Looking at “Toccata in D Minor,” opus 59 (Zwölf Stücke), number 5, will illustrate this problem.6 The first part of this short tripartite composition consists of only twenty measures that contain, depending on how one counts, between four (in measures 4, 7, 15, and 20) and seven (the additional ones in measures 10, 11, and 12) such subdivisions. If the dynamic culminations in Organo Pleno reached at the end of all of the dynamic waves always starting at ff are any clue Reger would have regarded measure 12 as one of the important breaks in spite of the fact that the sixteenth-note triplet movement continues. Among the four clear breaks, all indicated by a large quarter-note chord, the one in measure 20 is marked by a fermata, the one in measure 4 by a fermata with the word kurz, or short. The other two breaks do not bear any indication. The common way of realizing these four transitions, experienced in dozens of performances by students and competition participants without exception, is holding the respective chords for about two beats instead of one as notated. While this is obviously acceptable for the chords marked by a fermata it is clearly not correct in the other two cases.

Apart from the resulting lack of stringency there is a consequence for the dynamic perception of harmonies, which prevents the buildup of tension as probably intended by Reger. The A-major seventh chord in measure 7 is followed by a D-minor harmony on the next beat, by the way a harmonic concept (a traditional dominant-tonic cadence) that Reger employs in a vast majority of formal transitions, even major ones (see measures 20–21: the B-major dominant seventh chord in measure 20 is followed by an E-minor harmony implied at the beginning of the soft middle section of the piece). Since the A-major seventh chord is in an accentuated metrical position (beat 3), holding it for a half note will inevitably give the ensuing D-minor harmony a metrical accent, particularly if the player gives it a strong dose of initially hesitating rubato, a gradual speeding up, with the aim of making his performance expressive.

Both player and listener are satisfied with an accent on the tonic, which might be the reason for this metrical misreading in the first place. If, however, the A-major chord is given its proper value, the D-minor harmony can be perceived as an upbeat to the much more interesting chord on the following beat 1, which consists of a double suspension (B sharp and D sharp) before an A-major sixth chord, thus keeping up the harmonic tension of the A-major seventh chord in measure 7 by preventing the succession of A major and D minor to be perceived as a definite cadence. It goes without saying that this is extremely consequential with regard to the perception of form, in other words to coherence or a lack thereof. The situation in measure 15 is different but comparable: the F-major 3-4 chord is continued chromatically by the implied bass line of the ensuing broken chords.

The question is why Reger notated fermatas in measures 4 and 20, but not in 7 and 15. The answer for measure 20 is clear: in measure 21 the middle section of the piece starts. In measure 4 the fermata marks an E-major chord that is followed by a new statement of the toccata’s opening passage in A minor, the dominant. This fact gives the E-major chord a higher formal relevance than the chords in measures 7 and 15, but not of the same degree as in measure 20, which is why Reger cautioned the player with kurz in measure 4. Since the opening passage starts on beat 4 (and should consequently be played with an upbeat feeling, not easy to achieve particularly when too much initial rubato is involved, as is very common) the “short” fermata should still allow the listener to perceive the value of the E-major chord as one (quarter note) beat in order to maintain the upbeat feeling for the new beginning. Even in measure 20 it is to be recommended to keep the B-major chord only for one beat (albeit somewhat longer than the E-major chord in measure 4, by means of a larger ritardando preparation) in order to clarify its upbeat metrical position.

This upbeat position, the first of its kind after so many seemingly comparable chords concluding phrases in downbeat positions, is undoubtedly a formal ploy to bridge the most incisive formal transition of the whole piece, another example of Reger striving for formal coherence.

“Benedictus,” opus 59 (Zwölf Stücke), number 9

It should by now be clear that Reger’s notation of transitional places is by no means accidental but highly differentiated and precisely responding to the formal structure. The question is now whether the consequences for the dynamic or metrical perception of harmonies were also on his mind. This can be answered more easily by looking at the equally famous “Benedictus” from the same collection, opus 59, number 9.

This piece is based on two motives, both exposing the interval of a fourth, the second of which outlining the fugue subject (which could easily be sung to “Hosanna in excelsis”) with two ascending fourths, the first with two descending fourths, thus probably meant to be the inverted idea. In its first appearance with the notes D flat, A natural, B flat, F, it enters three times alla stretta, the entrances always coinciding with the fourth note of the preceding entrance. As a consequence the entrances occur on different beats of the first two measures: 1, 4, and 3. The listener might be misled into assuming that the piece is in 3/4 rather than in the 4/4 that Reger notated. Another misunderstanding—this will immediately show its relevance—is that the listener will understand the first two notes as C sharp and A, i.e., a falling major third in A major.

This strange opening has to be viewed in light of Riemann’s teachings. Riemann develops his ideas about the dynamics of phrases, so crucial for his theories, starting with motives of two or three notes.7 According to his principles static dynamics are unthinkable: a melodic line always moves either in crescendo or decrescendo. Accordingly a two-note motive can be crescendo or decrescendo.8 For a three-note motive there is a third possibility: first crescendo, then decrescendo9 (the fourth theoretically possible variant, decrescendo-crescendo, is not really considered). This is also his favorite dynamic shape for any musical phrase: starting with a crescendo, which leads to a dynamic climax, then relaxation in decrescendo. Though Riemann generally opposes the late Baroque system of metrically oriented accentuation he still maintains the primate of beat one, in his musical examples always placing the dynamic climax on beat one. Hence we may assume that Reger’s dynamic thinking also respects bar lines.

This explains the opening of the “Benedictus.” Reger’s intention probably is to present his central motive in various possible dynamic shapes: the first entrance is thought decrescendo throughout. This can easily be accepted by the listener who de facto hears a falling major third.

The problem here is that the player knows that this interval is supposed to be a diminished fourth, and that the second note is longer than the first, so he will intuitively intend these two notes rather to be felt as a crescendo. In fact a trained ear can identify the player’s respective intention. The motive’s second entrance places the first note in an upbeat position, leading to the second note in crescendo. The third entrance uses still another option: here the dynamic climax is meant to be on the tied-over part of the second note. Since this is not really communicable on the organ Reger employs the swellbox, ending the crescendo sign exactly at the bar line and thus underlining the harmonic tension of the chord on the following beat one, which converts the originally consonant A natural into a dissonant suspension.

According to general compositional principles the moment has come where the composer should change the motive at the very latest: the fourth entrance starts one note higher on E flat, and thus is the loudest entrance. (Note that in the final short part of the piece, in measure 51, the corresponding entrance on the high E flat arrives after the swellbox has been closed, another dynamic-motivic refinement!) Straube10 displaces the dynamic indications: his crescendo sign starts not on the first note of the third entrance (D flat), but on the second, and continues till the end of the following measure, resulting in a dynamic climax on the first beat of measure 4 on a totally consonant B-flat major chord. He obviously did not see the refinement of Reger’s dynamic strategy and probably also did not understand Reger’s intention to present the motive in three different dynamic versions, an intention very essential to late Romantic musical thinking.

The first appearance in this piece of a solo line on the second manual (measure 8, beat 3) reveals another misreading of Reger’s intentions: Reger continues a diminuendo throughout the first solo notes, which start in a tonality of D major, finishing it on the lowest note of the solo when the tonality has returned to the tonic of D flat (measure 9, beat 4). Straube, however, lets the solo line begin at the end of a diminuendo, which on the first glimpse seems to be more convincing, but Reger’s concept is clearly motivated by considerations both melodic and harmonic and thus certainly more logical from a composer’s perspective.

This excursion into the “Benedictus” was supposed to demonstrate Reger’s refined dynamic intentions and to underscore the importance of playing the transition in measure 7 of the “Toccata” in a metrically correct way. In his edition11 Straube does not add a fermata to the respective A-major chord, but his rallentando covering the first three beats of this measure and the sudden dynamic drop from forte to piano (including switching to another combination and moving back the Rollschweller device quite considerably), which he prescribes, clearly result in an interruption of the metric flow. The same can be said about the transition in measure 13: whereas Reger goes from Organo Pleno to a mere meno ff Straube goes from fff to p. Additionally already in measure 10 he prescribes Sostenuto, eighth note equals 84, and ritenuto in measure 12, thus probably resulting in a tempo only half of the initial eighth note equals 120, which he again suddenly prescribes in the middle of measure 12. This is obviously not the uninterrupted flow of sixteenth-note triplets, which is implied in Reger’s notation, but a clear break.

It might be said in defense of Straube’s apparent handling of these transitions that it separates sections and thus clarifies the structure of the piece very efficiently. However, the question is whether Reger’s way of writing is not structurally clear enough anyway, even considering possible acoustic issues with reverberation, which should be negligible in light of the limited dynamic contrasts, except for measures 20–21.

Looking into a piece by a different composer will show a similar problem. In Straube’s edition of some of the major organ works by Franz Liszt12 the diminished seventh chord at the end of measure 12 in Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H is enlarged from six to eight notes, followed by a manual change,13 implying a break between this seventh chord and the ensuing sixth chord of G-flat major. This is a crucial moment in the piece that may be interpreted as a reference to a strikingly similar harmonic adventure in measures 20–21 of Bach’s Fantasia in G Minor, BWV 542i. Since this harmonic progression is a correct but totally unexpected resolution of the seventh chord it is important for the player to present the seventh chord as leading to the following chord. Liszt’s notation of a fermata on the sixteenth-note rest on beat one probably intends to give the listener a moment to digest the surprise, and Bach’s soprano tie across the bar line clearly aims to connect the chords.

It thus appears that Straube’s style of performance had a tendency of accentuating formal incisions of a piece rather than bridging them for the sake of holding together larger sections or the piece as a whole. Whether the motivation for this is purely musical or the result of resignation in the face of technically difficult registration manipulations (some of these self-inflicted by his disrespect for the composer’s dynamic indications) is impossible to decide.

Returning to Reger’s “Toccata in D Minor,” looking at the final two pages will reveal another problem with respect to Straube’s treatment of the musical form, but even more with respect to what might be called the emotional curve. Reger marks the broken-chord passage starting in measure 29 stringendo. The latter continues up to the A-major 6/5 chord in measure 33, which is followed by a dynamic drop to meno ff and an ensuing diminuendo until measure 35. In the middle of measure 35, while the chordal sequence of measures 33–35 still continues for a half measure, Reger turns the diminuendo into a crescendo, thus dynamically bridging the transition to a totally different figurative pattern.

Straube’s concept of the same passages is drastically different. Instead of an accelerando he prescribes an allargando; instead of meno ff plus diminuendo in measure 33 he prescribes pp and then a sudden and quick crescendo starting in measure 36. While on the first glimpse his solution seems to be more convincing than Reger’s rather surprising, in fact counterintuitive one, a second look leads to the conclusion that Reger’s concept might actually be considered artistically superior, at least more interesting, since instead of underlining the formal incisions it rather blurs them, resulting in a far more stringent ending of the piece.

The arpeggiando passage is not majestic (Straube writes sostenuto plus ritenuto) but breathless, the A-major 6/5 chord does not become an opportunity for a satisfied rest (Straube gives it a fermata), but spills over its accumulated energy into the ensuing chordal passage, which because of its falling bass line should rather be diminuendo, during which this energy is gradually spent. Obviously this concept is much more dramatic than Straube’s; it also shows a clear intention to keep the whole third part of “Toccata” coherent.14

“Kyrie,” opus 59 (Zwölf Stücke), number 7

In replacing Reger’s stringendo of measures 29–33 with sostenuto/ritenuto Straube shows an attitude toward preparing a dynamic climax that is fundamentally opposed to Reger’s own. In fact he seems to adhere to a different school of thought in this respect since he does exactly the same thing in measures 17–18 and 31–32 of “Kyrie,” opus 59, number 7, and in measures 41–46 of “Benedictus,” or in a totally different musical situation, in measures 35 and 98 of the first movement of Reger’s Second Organ Sonata, opus 60, where the crescendo and accelerando of the short transition between what might be called the second and third main thematic ideas is replaced by diminuendo and ritardando, separating the respective sections rather than connecting them as is clearly Reger’s aim.15 Reger follows his teacher Riemann’s recipe: a crescendo is naturally accompanied by an accelerando (correspondingly a diminuendo by a ritardando);16 a dynamic climax is reached with an accelerando, holding back the tempo briefly on the climax itself before the energy is released a tempo, the ensuing diminuendo eventually accompanied by a ritardando.17 Straube’s approach can be found in some late Romantic organ treatises, for example, Karl Matthaei, who states that an agogic dwelling causes an increase of intensity; when playing in forte registration it may even been extended to longer stretches.18

Perhaps this fundamentally different approach to presenting climactic moments of a composition reveals differences between the respective personalities: Reger’s radical, dramatic pushing forward versus Straube’s more civilized (if not to say more bourgeois), relaxed basking in a glowing Organo Pleno sound.

Passacaglia in E Minor, opus 127, and Fantasie und Fuge über B-A-C-H, opus 46

Different opinions about separation/contrast versus blending/overlapping may occasionally work the other way. In measure 64 of Passacaglia in E Minor, opus 127, Reger originally closed a variation in diminuendo and pp and abruptly began the new variation in f, as can be seen in his extant autograph manuscript. The first edition, which was already informed or influenced by Straube’s first performance of this work, commissioned for the inauguration of the world’s then largest organ, built by W. Sauer Orgelbau of Frankfurt/Oder, in the Breslau (Wrocław) Jahrhunderthalle on September 24, 1913, replaces this dynamic contrast by a more modest beginning of the new variation in p;19 again an example of Straube’s diplomatic mollifying of an emanation of his friend’s more radical personality?

The comparison of autograph manuscript and first edition of opus 127 sheds light on a possible practical explanation of some of the two men’s differing opinions. The original tempo indication for the fugue was quarter note equals 66–84. The first edition indicates eighth note equals 116–132. Though the two indications meet at 66/132 (actually a fairly realistic tempo), the edition’s indication is generally considerably slower. This, however, is not the main point. When listening to performances of the piece it can usually be recognized whether the player feels a quarter-note or an eighth-note pulse, in the latter case resulting in a loss of the dance-like character probably on Reger’s mind, even when there is not a large difference in metronomic tempo. Considering the fact that Straube had to learn this long and difficult piece on rather short notice it may very well be that his studies were in a phase when he was still thinking in an eighth-note pulse, as would be typical for a player facing such a daunting task. The player’s way of thinking will affect the listener’s reaction: thinking in a quarter-note pulse will point his perception toward the larger picture more easily and will consequently lead to a better formal coherence of the piece.20

A comparable problem of learning a difficult piece quickly may have led to two famous instructions Straube used to give his students concerning two short passages of Reger’s “Fantasie” from Fantasie und Fuge über B-A-C-H, opus 46: Straube recommended to play the chordal diminuendo passage from measure 19, beat 4, to measure 20, beat 2, twice as slow as notated, in spite of the fact that Reger, knowing that this would be difficult to achieve, prescribes Vivace assai, and to the contrary, the four final chords (measure 55, beat 4 onwards) twice as fast as notated, which means that the concluding chords of the fantasia, notated in eighth notes, are performed at the same speed as the chords preceding the eighth-note rest (measure 55, beat 3).

As I could observe numerous students (almost without any exception) doing the same at the end of the fantasia without having the slightest idea of a corresponding tradition, my suspicion has grown that Straube’s recommendation was the eventual result of an original miscounting that he codified, possibly as a face-saving ploy. Notwithstanding the possibility that the resulting performance of the fantasia’s end might be considered as more natural than the one indicated by the composer’s notation, a miscounting would be a very human error that can easily happen even to a distinguished musician like Straube.

A similar mistake might have occurred in measure 10 of the “Toccata in D Minor” where Straube suddenly reduces the tempo to almost only fifty percent. The same can be observed in most students’ performances of the second half of measure 14, there (unfortunately) also in an otherwise quite convincing performance by Straube’s famous contemporary Alfred Sittard (1878–1942), who by the way, makes fine distinctions concerning the transitions in measures 4, 7, 15, and 20. He does, however, keep the first fermata quite long so that the perceived note value becomes something like a half note, whereas his A-Major seventh chord in measure 7 can be perceived very well as a quarter note. Otherwise he generally respects Reger’s indications quite precisely; only his phrasing caesurae are rather too long, possibly a reaction either to the large acoustic of Saint Michael’s Church in Hamburg or to the difficulties of handling registration on its huge Walcker instrument.21

As can be seen from the example of Sittard’s performance of this ostensibly “small” piece, Reger’s refined dynamic and agogic indications, certainly at least partly conceived with the aim of guaranteeing formal coherence and a stringent emotional curve of the piece, presents the player with many technical and musical difficulties. The changes that Straube made in his edition eliminate some of these difficulties; additionally they are easily acceptable to a musical player or listener. In fact some of them seem to be more natural than Reger’s original indications. The question of whether they are musically superior may have to be answered individually by anybody experiencing the piece. For Reger his friend Straube was the ultimate authority concerning organ performance in general. His belief in his friend’s opinions went far enough to accept Straube’s suggestions regarding questions of composition proper, the most unfortunate example of this being Reger’s Requiem, which remained unfinished. It should not be forgotten, however, that at least during Reger’s lifetime Straube was active and renowned only as an organist, whereas Reger himself had an enormous reputation as an orchestral conductor and as a pianist, particularly in chamber music and Lied accompaniment. Thus we have to accept that his meticulous performance instructions were informed by vast experiences gained during a very busy and successful career as a performing musician, and that these instructions deserve to be taken seriously despite the inherent difficulties.

Reger’s oeuvre is the fruit of a short, busy, and stressful life taken anything but easily. As responsible performers we should honor his efforts with a matching respect for detail.


1. Ann Arbor (UMI), 1999.

2. Wiesbaden (Breitkopf & Härtel), 2015.

3. Ed. Klaus Röhring, Wiesbaden (Breitkopf & Härtel) 1974, pages 21–30.

4. See “Hugo Riemann and the Development of Musical Performance Practice,” Ludger Lohmann, in Proceedings of the Göteborg International Organ Academy 1994, edited by Hans Davidsson and Sverker Jullander, Skrifter fran Musikvetenskapliga avdelingen, Göteborgs universitet, Göteborg 1995, pages 251–284. Riemann’s ideas are also to be found in Orgelschule zur historischen Aufführungspraxis, Teil 2, Romantik, Jon Laukvik, Carus, Stuttgart, 2000. The respective passages seem to be quite dependent on my Göteborg article.

5. The two most important ones are: Lehrbuch der musikalischen Phrasirung auf Grund einer Revision der Lehre von der musikalischen Metrik und Rhythmik, Hugo Riemann, Breitkopf & Härtel, Hamburg/Leipzig/St. Petersburg, 1884, and System der musikalischen Rhythmik und Metrik, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1903.

6. Since the scores of Reger’s organ works are easily accessible and probably present in many organists’ libraries I have refrained from giving musical examples. The measure numbers refer to the Breitkopf edition, but other editions may as well be used since they differ only in small textual details not relevant here.

7. Lehrbuch der musikalischen Phrasirung auf Grund einer Revision der Lehre von der musikalischen Metrik und Rhythmik, Hugo Riemann, pages 11ff.

8. According to his terminology “anbetont” or “abbetont.”

9. “inbetont.”

10. Zwölf Stücke für die Orgel von Max Reger. Op. 59. Hieraus in Einzel-Ausgabe: No. 9. Benedictus. Im Einverständnis mit dem Komponisten herausgegeben von Karl Straube. Leipzig: Peters 1913; London-Frankfurt-New York: Peters, 1949.

11. Präludien und Fugen für die Orgel von Max Reger, herausgegeben von Karl Straube, Leipzig: Peters 1912, Nr. 1. I thank Mrs. Ursula Wild of the library of the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg for providing me with a scan.

12. Orgelkompositionen von Franz Liszt, herausgegeben von Karl Straube. Band II, Leipzig: Peters 1917, pages 55–56.

13. In the first (1855) version of the piece Liszt also indicated a manual change, the right hand moving to the Oberwerk. This does not necessarily result in a dynamic break since the Oberwerk of the Merseburg organ for which the piece is intended is as powerful as the Hauptwerk. It is also interesting to see that the manual change was omitted in the second (1869) version. Additionally the fact that the lowest note of the right-hand chord has a shorter value than the rest of the chord, allowing the left-hand passage to interfere with it, implies that the manual change was not Liszt’s original intention anyway. Whether Straube knew the first version at all is doubtful, his edition concerns the second version, of course.

14. Reger seems to have liked the effect of overlapping musical passages, as can be seen on a smaller scale, e.g., on the last page of his Second Organ Sonata, opus 60. The numerous entrances alla stretta of at least the fugue subject’s opening motive are rarely marked by the beginning of new slurs. Reger once (measures 87–88) places a new slur on the two notes preceding the first thematic note, and more frequently on the second note of the subject, thus indicating respectively that the subject is prepared by a short upbeat, or that the initial note has the double function of ending the preceding phrase and starting the new phrase. In any case his clear intention is that there should be no break in the legato—as most players would do, reacting intuitively to the notation—in accordance with Riemann’s advice that phrasing does not necessarily have to be shown by articulation, but sometimes only by slight rubato nuances in order not to interrupt the longer legato line in the sense of a Wagnerian “infinite melody:” “Es ist etwas ganz bekanntes, dass die Schlusstöne der Phrasen oder wo die Verkettung loser ist, auch der Motive, zumeist abgesetzt, d.h. nicht in ununterbrochenem Tonflusse zu den Anfangstönen der folgenden Phrasen oder Motive fortgeführt, sondern von diesen durch kleine Pausen geschieden werden. Vielfach sind diese Pausen nicht anders, als durch das Ende eines Bogens oder auch gar nicht angedeutet und müssen also ad libitum, d.h. nach Massgabe des guten Geschmacks, durch Abzüge vom Werthe der letzten Note gewonnen werden; Gesichtspunkte, welche mangels einer Andeutung von Seiten des Komponisten dafür entscheidend werden können, ob man überhaupt die Phrasen- resp. Motivtrennung durch wirkliches Absetzen oder aber nur durch eine unbedeutende Verlängerung der letzten Note bewirkt, werden wir weiterhin kennen lernen.” (Riemann 1884, 145)

This way of indicating what Riemann would call “Phrasenverschränkung” (roughly to be translated as “joining of phrases”) or “Phrasenverkettung” is a bit unusual; Reger almost never uses the more conventional notation of letting two slurs meet on one note.

15. The described handling of this transition is not documented anywhere, but I clearly remember it from a radio recording of the piece by Michael Schneider, one of Straube’s most important students, to which I listened several times years ago.

16. See Reger’s footnote on page 8 (first edition, Aibl, later republished by UE) of the Choralfantasie über Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele, opus 30: “Die < > beziehen sich auf den Gebrauch des Jalousieschwellers; doch kann man auch im Tempo bei < etwas string. u. bei > etwas ritard. (Tempo rubato),” which is the practical implementation of a passage in Lehrbuch der musikalischen Phrasirung auf Grund einer Revision der Lehre von der musikalischen Metrik und Rhythmik, Hugo Riemann, page 11: “Mit dem crescendo der metrischen Motive ist stets eine (selbstverständlich geringe) Steigerung der Geschwindigkeit der Tonfolge und mit dem diminuendo eine entsprechende Verlangsamung verbunden.” Reger’s remark even goes one step further, giving an important hint to situations where no Swell division is at hand: dynamic inflections may be replaced by agogic ones.

17. “Die merkliche agogische Schattirung der Werte, nämlich eine gelinde Beschleunigung im Hineinlaufen in die Schwerpunktsnote, merkliche Dehnung der auf den Schwerpunkt selbst fallenden kurzen Note und abnehmende Dehnung der weiter bis zu Ende folgenden Werte.” Hugo Riemann, System der musikalischen Rhythmik und Metrik, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1903, page 17.

18. “Die agogische Stauung, eine bewußt herbeigeführte Verbreiterung des Grundtempos, bewirkt auf der Orgel, dem Instrument unendlichen Atems, eine Verdichtung der Intensität, welche bei stärker registriertem Spiel sich sogar auf längere Strecken auszudehnen vermag.” Vom Orgelspiel. Eine kurzgefaßte Würdigung der künstlerisch orgelgemäßen Interpretationsweise und ihrer klanglichen Ausdrucksmittel, Handbücher der Musiklehre XV, Karl Matthaei, Breitkopf & Härtel. Leipzig, 1936, page 52. Matthaei was a Straube student; his remarks on rubato otherwise follow Riemann’s teachings.

19. A similar contrast mp–f is to be found measure 80, which in the first edition is changed to the f being prepared by a crescendo ending of the preceding variation.

20. I do not want to address tempo questions in general, which in the case of “Benedictus” would be quite interesting. See my article in the Festschrift for Wolfgang Stockmeier.

21. The recording is accessible on YouTube. It has been described in detail by Hans Martin Balz in an article in Ars Organi 1/2017 (journal of Gesellschaft der Orgelfreunde), pages 50–52. I thank Dr. Balz for providing me with the link.

This article originally appeared in Ars et Usus Musicae Organicae: Juhlakirja Olli Porthanille (Essays in Honour of Olli Porthanille), edited by Jan Lehtola and Peter Peitsalo, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland, 2020, and is reprinted here with permission.

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