3. Max Reger: just writing down the music

Reger in Kolberg: photograph Reger in Kolberg: drawing

Only three composers are known to have been writing down the music first prepared in their head: Bach, Mozart and Reger. The writing bored Mozart (as he complained to his father) while Reger could not find enough time to write it all down. During the long nights in coaches and trains, on his way to concerts and back home, he found the time to compose music in his head. Sometimes he had several compositions ready to be written down, but he just hadn't the time! It was therefore that he could promise his publishers a new work of so many bars, with these and those instruments and so on. He knew beforehand how many time it should take to write it down, and then did just that!

For many works, he made some sketches for the large idea of the work or for not forgetting a good idea. It was a kind of steno natation. A large quantity of sketches was acquired recently by the Max Reger Institute, among which important ones for the Hiller Variations op. 100, Violinkonzert op. 101 and Symphonischer Prolog op. 108.

Above, you see two images by Franz Nölken: the photograph was taken in Kolberg (i. Pommern), a now forgotten town lying at the coast of the Baltic Sea, since 1945 belonging to Poland. The Reger family spent many holidays there, the last time in 1913 (when the photo and drawing were made). Reger did like it there so much that he repeatedly uttered the wish that he be buried along the Baltic Coast (also present in the memoirs of the Dutch pianist Willem Andriessen). Afterwards Reger's widow, Elsa Reger, returned to Kolberg for holidays in 1925. She writes in her memoirs about the holidays on page 122-123 (about 1913) and 192-193 (about 1925). On the pictures above, Reger is seen working on the Ballett-Suite for orchestra op. 130. In the same weeks, the nine pieces for organ op. 129 were written. The drawing at the right was clearly made with the photograph as a lead. Nölken made several photo's during the occasion of which that shown above is in my opinion the best. Notice the difference between the two representations: the photo gives a static view, while the drawing displays dynamics and movement during the frantic writing of the notes.

A characteristic of Reger's handwriting is seen as the background to these pages: notes in black and dynamic signs in red (his father was a schoolmaster after all). The overall impression is of a very carefull prepared handwriting, easy to read and play from. Some pieces received a facsimile printing such as the string trio op. 77b, where I derived the background from.

The photograph below shows Max Reger also during writing, together with his "Patenkind" Max Martin Stein. Reger is reported to have nice conversations with people in the room while writing-down his music. It shows us that he had an enormous concentration and, compared to us humble people, an enormous spiritual and intellectual power.

Reger writing music while talking to Max Martin Stein