9. Max Reger's death and what followed


He repeatedly uttered the wish to be buried at the coast of the Baltic Sea, near Kolberg. But that came not into being. On this page I have compiled some information about the history of what happened to Max Reger after his death: it was followed by taking two dead-masks, a funeral and 2 re-burials.

  1. Reger on his deathbed
  2. The two deathmasks
  3. The funeral
  4. Three resting places

Stuttgart February 10, 1916

The photo above is one of the last photos of Max Reger. It was taken in Stuttgart by Kammermusiker Franz Klein on February 10, 1916 (Dr. J.Schaarwächter of the Max-Reger-Institut Karlsruhe was so kind as to provide this information). Three months afterward, Reger was dead.

1. Reger on his deathbed

It is probably a reflection of the shock that went through musical Germany in 1916 that a photo of Reger on his deathbed (made by Hoenisch) was published. But then, Reger himself treasured a photo of Johannes Brahms on his deathbed. On the photo is visible that a laurel-wreath was placed on his head as a sign of honour. His hands seem folded, this is because Reger died while reading a newspaper.
Adolf Wach, after paying honour to Max Reger wrote on May 11, 1916 to Fritz Stein: "welch ein schöpferische Kraft ist da erloschen".

Leipzig, May 11, 1916

Elsa Reger, in her book (1930), writes in some detail about the circumstances surrounding Reger's death. She arrived in the afternoon of May 11, 1916 at the death-bed of her beloved husband (p. 153) and stayed the whole night (p. 154), meaning until May 12. She also writes that on that morning, as Max Klinger made the drawing of Reger (see below, original in Leipzig Museum der bildende Kunste) she saw her husband for the last time. The drawing, reads "11. Mai 1916", referring here obviously to the day Reger died and not to the day Klinger made the drawing.

There exist two slightly differing versions of Klinger's drawing. Opitz (2000: p. 157) indeed mentiones "Zeichnungen" (drawings) and also Popp & Shigihara (eds.) in "Auf der Suche nach dem Werk" (1998: 217) mention the existence of originally two drawings.
The topmost drawing was reproduced not only in Elsa Reger (1930: facing p. 192) but also in Müller von Asow (1944: Tafel 73) (compare Popp & Shigihara ibid.).

Drawing of Max Klinger (Elsa Reger, Müller von Asow)

Drawing of Max Klinger (Leipzig Museum)

2. The two deathmasks

Two deathmasks were made. This is not much reflected upon in the Reger-literature (Fritz Stein (1939, p.78) mentions only that Engelmann modelled Reger's hands). But it did not escape the attention of scientific Reger-research: Opitz (2000: p. 151) discusses the two death-masks and the date when they were made. The doubt thereabouts mainly originates from two different statements by K. Dittmar from 1933 resp. 1937.

1. Richard Engelmann

Richard Engelmann writes (in: Ernst Benkard: Das ewige Antlitz (2nd Ed., 1927), page 50, nr. 93) about the deathmask he made, that he took it in the presence of Elsa Reger and also modelled the hands of Reger (photo in: Müller von Asow 1944: Tafel 74).
NB: the first Edition of Benkard (1926) cites Engelmann in a slightly different way.
An interesting detail he mentiones is that he (Engelmann) visited Max Klinger early in the morning, heard about Reger's death and then immediately went to the Hotel, where Elsa Reger was already present. As she arrived only in the afternoon of May 11 in Leipzig (see above) and this took place in the morning it follows that Engelmann made the death-mask on the 12th and not on May 11, 1916 as he (Engelmann) himself mentiones. Indeed, the specimen of the Meininger Museen is marked with "12. 05. 1916". Opitz (2000: p. 151, note 34) also refers to a publication of K. Dittmar (1937) who, citing Elsa Reger, positiones the Engelmann-mask as the second one, made 24 hours after the one by Seffner.

The death-mask by Richard Engelmann

2. Carl Seffner

Carl Seffner is well-known for his using Bach's original skull to reconstruct his face. Reger had been vey upset about this dishonour done to the remains of the composer he most admired. A little twist of irony it is that Seffner modelled also Reger's death-mask. Reger's first biograph, Max Hehemann writes (1917, facing page 112): "Die Maske ist wenige Stunden nach Eintritt des Todes aufgenommen und gibt daher noch den Eindruck des Lebens" (The mask was taken a few hours after death and so gives a lifelike impression).

As it can be assumed now that Engelmann modeled his mask on May 12, 1916 and Seffner's was made 24 hours earlier (see also the discussion in Opitz 2000: p. 151, note 34) it can be assumed that Seffner made the first death-mask on May 11, 1916.

The death-mask of Seffner raises in itself also a question: how does it really look like?
The photo of this death-mask as pictured in Mueller von Asow (1944) and Opitz (2000) is very different from the photo's in Hehemann (1917) and Stein (1956: fig. 123).

The death-mask by Carl Seffner
The death-mask by Carl Seffner in Weiden (courtesy of Alberth Pöllath, Eschborn)

As Opitz (2000: p. 163, fig. 6) and Mueller von Asow (1944: Tafel 74) both present the same Seffner-mask, the death-mask as depicted in Hehemann (1917) and Stein (1956: fig. 123) must be an extended version made by Seffner which was based on the original death-mask.
This version reflects much more the photo by Hoenisch of Reger on his deathbed.

The extended death-mask by Carl Seffner depicted in Hehemann (1917: facing p.112)
The extended death-mask by Carl Seffner depicted in Hehemann (1917: facing p.128) and Stein (1956: fig. 123)

However, the most beautiful photo of Seffner's Reger-death-mask was published in Rosemarie Clausen: Die Vollendeten (Tazzelwurm Verlag Albert Jauß, Stuttgart 1941). See below.

The death-mask by Carl Seffner from Clausen 1941

3. The funeral

This sad day, May 14 1916, was described in more or less detail in various sources (Fritz Stein 1939: p.78-79; Elsa Reger 1930: p.155-156). Although Reger was cremated, which was relatively new in those days, the clergy did not object.


4. Three resting places

1. Jena, 1916-1922

Jena, altar

After the remembrance-service and cremation, his remains became part of the "Altar" of Elsa Reger in the house in Jena. She maintained a sort of Reger-Altar.

2. Weimar, 1922-1930

Weimar around 1922 Weimar 1928
From Weimar, now in Weiden, present day (courtesy of Alberth Pöllath, Eschborn)

3. München, 1930-present

München 1930
München present day München present day

Josef Weiss made the Grabmal in München.