Max Reger – the master of variation

Dear friends,

last news appeared since more than one year, but sorry, too many tasks stopped all activities to continue our expedition in the world of Max Regers organ works. I hope, you understand it.


In last news I began to present organ works by Reger played at historical instruments in Germany. Now I will continue.


Let’s begin now recalling the special situation for organists playing a historical organ. Organists have a big chance with their old instruments. Such organs are installed in their original location. In the same church, at the same place in the church, where the organ builder created the sound, exactly adapted to the sound conditions of the building. What a chance for good interpretation of relating epoch in organ in music!


Dear friends of the organ, to realize this chance, you need the simple imagination, that musicians today in most cases play in modern rooms. Material, construction, architectonic conception, all this represents the spirit of  o u r  time, not favorable to develop emotion corresponding to the past. Especially ensembles for ancient music depend upon industrial production. In our time industrial production of music has an important influence, modern electronic equipment  allows to create any desired sound, where-ever musicians played. Sound ingenieurs don’t like to remove for historical locations. They prefer the studio, prepared for all purpose: symphonic or chamber music, soloists or singers, choirs etc.. And digital electronic equipment add the suitable  accoustics! It’s very easy to understand, that the style of interpretation is influenced by this daily experience. Concerning historical music played with historic instruments that’s fatal, because this modern circumstances don’t have good effect for the manner of playing old instruments. But music of the past is expression of the past, not expression of our time.The percentage of historic concert halls or rooms is unimportant and a lot of time musicians today have to play in recording studios with extreme technical ambiente. Poor people indeed! Organists with their original locations are favored! The old building and the old instrument guide to find good interpretation.


Now there is no alternative, I go to present Reger music, recently recorded at the same splended authentic organ as at the end of last news.


Reger and variation!

A connection like Faust and Mephisto! The two sides of the same medal. Reger admired old german organ music, studied it meticulous, transformed it in his own musical language, his own ideas. His ideas, there is no comparison with other composers. In last news I presented Choral preludes and parts of the “Phantasie” about ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’. Theses pieces are based on a pre-existant melodie, varied by a composer. In all periods of music you find variations. But Reger, indeed, is one of the greatest master in variation.


So, the venerable genre of Passcaglia fascinated him, too. The Basso obstinato, the “never ending” repetition of the same theme in the bass, the voices above forming variations, one after another; the old masters Muffat, Buxtehude and others gave examples of highest level. And Bach! His genius add the fugue as apotheose. And – incredible! – the idea to start with the theme alone played by the pedals. A great moment in history of music indeed!

Reger composed several Passacaglias for organ, in op. 63, very fine, and the splendid one in op. 127. But there is a remarkable one in ‘Introduction und Passacaglia’ d-Moll, o. Op., in spite Reger not signated it with an opus number.

Created to help for the project of a new organ in the Rhine region, this task for the “routinier” Reger did not pose any problem. Result? Perfect proportions, stuped effect, technical difficulties limited. And good to understand for listeners without special experience. In fact, a truly Reger, not too sophisticated, not too modern, good for a real hit in organ music.


Here the beginning of Passacaglia. Attention! The bass stops in Reger time are big, sonorous, fundamental. And Reger begins with the Pedal alone, how his idol Bach. The first variation start in mystical sonority, very far, molto delicato. And you will see, movement becames quicker: quavers, quaver triplets, semiquavers. The first five variations are polyphonic constructions, each presents new ideas, but the sequence rests a homogeneous evolution.:



Variation 6 change to homophony, continuing until the end. Variation 8 surprises, because Reger presents, as counterpoint to the regular bass theme, a new Passacaglia theme in Soprano. Apart from the crazy idea to introduce a second theme in Passacaglia rhythm that’s ingenius in balancing the proportions: 5 variations in polyphonic style, 2 variations in homophonic style, variation 8 polyphonic (two themes as counterpoint) succeded by four variations in homophony enriched with figurative passages, altogether 12 variations. The dynamic level continual growes from ppp to ff with each variation. Now variations 7 to 10:



Before I tell some observations concering the end of Passacaglia first it follows the ‘Introduction’. In real Reger style you hear solemn harmonies by the full organ contrasting the two manuals and forming an impressive preparing and concentration for the Passacaglia theme, following immediately.



The last variation for me it is something like an “éclat triomphale”. The severe d minor turn over in the bright D major. A last time one can hear the Passacaglia bass by the full organ, now combined with the reprise of Introduction theme at the end. A wonderful framework for a real master piece by Max Reger.


Take pleasure in listening this marvellous music!




Have a good time!


Andreas Arand

Reger’s op. 59 Second Volume

Hallo, dear Reger enthousiasts,

hallo, dear organ enthousiasts,


some friends said to me, why you don’t present any videos showing your organ playing? Indeed, in this homepage you only find information by words and reproduction of my interpretations to hear. Mouvies, videos, pictures, designs you easy find it in internet. Narrative manner is my passion, to tell some reflexions, experiences, knowledge accumulated in many years. And, certainly much more efficient, music played by myself hoping you like it. I don’t like videos with artists in music (there are few exceptions). Very often I feel sorry for musicians in motion-picture, camera near. And the special seat of the organist with his pedal playing and all these technical features around him: which advance one can expect for the listeners concentration in music?

Let’s return to music itself, to Reger and his op. 59.


The second volume of these 12 pieces surprises in evoking religious music. Four pieces reflect roman-catholic tradition in organ music: Kyrie, Gloria, Benedictus, Te Deum. In Gloria (No. 8) and Te Deum (No. 12) Reger uses well-known liturgical melodies. In catholic mass the priest intonate „Gloria in excelsis deo“. You hear this melody first in soprano in homophonic style. In the following parts it appears in multiple constellations.


‘Benedictus’ follows, the absolute contrast to ‘Gloria’. Extremely lyrical, I feel lovely, smooth, indeed a moment of highest imagination of Reger and… the dearling of listeners since the appearence in 1901.

What a melodic passion! But a sort of „unendliche Melodie“ (infinite melody). All caracteristics of romantic melody is abandoned: no periodic structure, motives, phrases, cadences are placed without any symmetry like a prose speech. All this a very innovation. On the other side the significant reflex of tradition: ‘Benedictus’ in catholic masses ever is a lyrical piece (Haydn, Mozart, Dvorak etc.). The text „Benedictus in nomine domini“ is followed by „Hosanna in excelsis“ in Allegro movement. And indeed, after the first lyrical part Reger continues with an Allegro-fugue and one can sing the theme with the words „Hosanna in excelsis“! N.B. the text is not indicated in the score.

That’s Reger: revolution and tradition forming a new kind of music.


It’s evident. One can say, Reger’s op. 59 is a collection of character-pieces („Charakterstücke“), a sort of compositions frequently used in 19th. century (Mendelssohn, Schumann, Grieg), especially in Piano-literature. In the same time one can say, Reger’s op. 59 is a sort of „livre d’orgue“, collections composed by Grigny, Couperin, Clérambault etc. (17th and 18th century). The same genre is Frescobaldi’s ‘Fiori musicali’. You see, Reger is orientated in the precious heritage in order to transform it in modern music of 1901.


For further exemple now ‘Kyrie’ (No. 7). The first section is dominated by a theme in reminiscence of the famous Luther Choral „Aus tiefer Not“. The meaning of the text is the same as ‘kyrie’ in Greek. Reger presents a large development formed by a continuous crescendo followed by a continuous diminuendo. This realised by using as medium the melodic (arising/falling), rhythmic (slow to fast to slow) and dynamic (piano-forte-piano) aspect. It follows an intermedium section with a contrasting theme.


But instead to repeat the first section in tradition of 19th century Reger begins a disputation of the two themes, which remains until the end without returning to the earlier sections. A very extraordinary modern conception proving Regers outstanding qualities as composer. I let you hear the end with the disputation of the two themes during a continuous diminuendo. In the last bars I use the Prinzipal 32′. Molto grandioso!


‘Te Deum’, the great Finale, sets the famous gregorian song (hymn of Ambrosius) in unisono with the fff organ, before the theme appears in the pedals, a real good task for the Posaune, the big read stop for bass function in the great organ sound. The expressive tension growes, the movement becomes quicker, the theme in soprano is followed by cords in fff , which give high emphasis, very adapted to the liturgical tradition.



This group of four pieces in the second volume of op.59 with it’s correspondence to catholic organ music tradition is opposed by two caracter pieces, placed between ‘Benedictus’ and ‘Te Deum’. That’s ‘Capriccio’ and the well-known ‘Melodia’. The title Melodia is very justified, because one hear a free invented, calm flowing melodie in phrases with very wide dimensions. Regers melodic conception is obviously unusual and extremely modern in the beginning of 20th century. And this melodic pearl requires the best colour in sound, here in Koblenz St. Josef it is the moment for the wounderfull Flaut major 8′ in the Great.


For each organist it’s rather delicate to play this composition. The reason is Max Regers own recording of it, the famous Welte roll. The question:  what’s to do: to try an imitation of Regers interpretation? To try an interpretation in emotional distance? I think: neither nor! I play my own interpretation, and I know, many details differ from the composers version. But we shall not leave this marvellous piece without hearing the fine end with his clear sounds of the vox coelestis:


At the end of our ‘tour d’horizon’ through Max Regers ‘Zwölf Stücke für die Orgel’ op. 59 a conclusing return to the religious pieces with the fugue in five voices about ‘Te Deum laudamus’ , the apotheose in this collection, realised by the splendid full sound of the Seifert organ in Koblenz St. Josef.


Many greatings!


Andreas Arand



The Straube Tradition

Dear visitors,

good news:

The art of german organ-playing” goes on!

And the year of Max Reger continues too!

I’m very happy with this year. Organists all over the world celebrated Reger’s works, me too, and – not least – public attention included.

I told you some facts about the ‘Straube Tradition’ concerning the interpretation of the organ-compositions written by Max Reger. In the period of my own studies in organ-playing those organists, have had lessons with Karl Straube, were still actif, and to assist their recitals and to alive their personality created a very emotional, direct and deep impression for the young guys, who just started to enter in the marvellous world of organ-playing. And you must consider: playing an instrument doesn’t means only a matter of spirit and emotion, but also matter of technique. To see and hear the manner of techical realization of Regers scores by them wasn’t nothing else than stupendous! The Straube Tradition created possibitilies to realize Regers works with instruments of different styles.

You must know, that the style in organ-building in Germany changed in the epoque of Regers death. Starting with the end of world-war I the aesthetics of the german organ begun to adapt features of 17th and 18th century. Straube and his tradition tried to find techniques to realize the compositions of Reger with this new generation of modern instruments. And indeed you can discuss about details of their measures, but there is no doubt, that it was realized with deep knowledge about the caracteristics of Regers works. It’s our task to decide, which detail we accept and which detail we refuse. But the very emotional relation of these outstanding personalities in organ-playing is the most precious factor in this tradition. And it’s my opinion, that Regers organ-works are so important, that they should played on organs all over the world, whatever the style of the different organs may be.

The Welte-rolls as source for Reger-Playing

Dear visitors,

in the recent news I told you some facts about interpretation of Max Regers organ works, about several important questions for the interpreter to reach a good realization of these really difficult compositions – difficult in comparison with many other organ works in international repertoire.

A part of the question of the suitable instrument it is a central problem to understand the very special notation used by Reger. Each newcomer among organists is very astonished in front of these “black” pages, overcharged by all sorts of signs, indications, remarks – often in double and triple manner. And first it seems absolutly impossible to play all notes: the human creature only is equiped with ten fingers and two feed. How to play these Rocky Mountains of cords, this labyrinth in counterpoint with numberless voices? But piano, piano! It’s possible. Indeed: under condition to work hard.

The basis is: understanding”What means Reger?” And the composer knews these problems of the executing musician. And therefore he intended to create a tradition of Reger playing. That’s the very reason for his own excessive appearing on stage: demonstration, what means the score. We must deeply regret the lack of Reger recordings on grammophone discs, caused by his early death in 1916.

But in spite of this reality we are so fortunate to hear Regers own organ playing. The Welte brothers in Freiburg i. Br. (Germany) before world war I invented a brillant pneumatic system of recording: the “Welte-Philharmonie-Orgel”. With this system they were abled to realize the true fixing of individual organ playing (paper rolls). The reproduction is done by a real pipe organ. The Welte brothers invited Max Reger to come to Freiburg in 1913 and to play some of his compositions for the “Welte-Philharmonie-Orgel”. And so – after more than a hundred years – we can hear “Reger plays Reger”! And among these recordings figure ‘Benedictus’ and ‘Melodia’ from op. 59! These Reger recordings are extremely interesting for each Reger player and a deep impression for each enthousiast of the music of Max Reger.

From 07. to 10. 05. 2017 in Freiburg will take place a congress organized by the ‘Gesellschaft der Orgelfreunde’. The theme is “Tunes on rolls for the world”. During this congress participants will hear Max Regers organ playing at the Welte organ in the “Museum für Musikautomaten Seewen SO” (CH). For active organists I will give a seminar about interpretation under the aspect of Welte recordings not only of Max Reger, but also of Alfred Sittard, Marco Enrico Bossi, Eugen Gigout, Marcel Dupré etc..

Best greetings!

Andreas Arand