Organ Music, Repertoire and Performance > Performance technique, style and practice
Max Reger metronome indications
I have just received the email below which may be of interest.
--- Quote ---If you buy my Reger CD (MOT 13801) during this month (February 2013), you will get my book "The Straube Code: Deciphering the Metronome Marks in Max Reger's Organ Music" FOR FREE!!!
Just visit http://www.henricostewen.com/ and hit the Buy Now button next to the picture of the CD cover, the first item in the shop.
--- End quote ---
Ian van Deurne:
With all printed organ music, the tempo depends completely upon the size of the organ and the type of acoustic it sits in, whether wet or dry. This matters much more of course if you are playing to please others or just for your own pleasure. If that is so then you only have to worry about how it best sounds at the console and with Max generally, the larger the organ, the better!
I wish I had more time to learn and play more Reger; one of my favourite organ composers.
The one big work I learned was the "Hallelujah! Gott zu loben" during my student days, and I have periodically played this in recitals ever since.
However, what strikes me about Reger's music, and this work in particular, is not some mystery code, but the fact that if the music is played "urtext" (in other words, actually ignoring every tempo marking in the case of Reger), it is the underlying tempo of the chorale foundation which dictates the overall pace. Even the big fugal section is only based on a counterpoint of the chorale, (as if often the case with Reger), which permits the chorale theme to work in conjunction with it. So by going to the point where the chorale theme is re-introduced, it is a very simple matter to decide the tempo of the fugue-subject, basaed on the borad and stately march of the chorale. In fact, throughout the work, I don't think the underlying tempo of the chorale needs to change much, if at all. As Germani showed in his famous Selby Abbey recording for EMI, the freedom, passion and inventiveness derive from an organist's ability to use extensive rubato and great, sweeping flourishes which lead from one line of the chorale to the next.
The only thing which might be variable is more to do with the acoustic, the organ action and other parameters which might affect the performance of the work in some way.
Where I do find a problem is with a freely composed, non-chorale based work such as the big BACH work. Some organists, (especially American ones), seem to think that it is an object lesson in mindless virtuosity; some of the speeds reached positively ridiculous, and only remotely possible beacuse of very light, responsive EP actions. Unfortunately, I've never had the time to learn this very difficult and complex work, but I have followed it with the score and I can stagger through quite a bit of it. I think, were I to learn this work end-to-end, I would be very tempted to throw all indications to the birds, and just rely on musical instinct. Crescendo and accelerando do not have to combine to create an incomprehensible whirlwind of gratuitous, showy virtuosity, simply because an organist wishes to demonstrate that they can actually do it, where lesser mortals fail.
Give me a musician, and I'll point you towards magnificent music. Give me a mere technician, and I'll tell them where to dispose of the music in an environmentally friendly fashion.
Ian van Deurne:
Max Reger will always hold a special place in my life as I started to learn to play his organ works at quite an early age so have grown up with them. Starting with his chorale preludes (Op.135a) when I was about twelve, I progressed through the repertoire until I was able to tackle the more technically demanding works when an organ student. Of the three great Choralfantasia's, the second "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" is the one I most frequently perform in concerts, and sometimes performing the Fugue alone after church services, especially during Advent and the Christmas period.
Many organists I know, when playing his works, forget for which type of instrument they were originally conceived, the late German Romantic instrument. Performance today, especially on recordings I have heard are usually played on a modern, more eclectic instrument, which is not wrong, but does sometimes distort the original intention of the composer: too faster tempos and style of performance etc.
As regards 'Urtext', for Max Reger this shouldn't really apply, for there are many publications that reproduce the intentions of the composer from the original score. Any that don't are obviously due to some whim of a particular editor and should therefore be avoided.
Incidentally, tomorrow (March 12th) is the 75th anniversary of the death of Charles-Marie Widor and I hope to be able to spend the afternoon with him by playing some excerpts from his now, neglected ten Organ Symphonies, probably mostly to myself but for anyone else that decides to wander into the church to listen!
Best Wishes from Ian
With regard to metronome speeds in Reger's works, it should also be borne in mind that, at the time, it was customary for German organists to play rather slowly and ponderously. Therefore, Reger greatly exaggerated his speeds, in order that performers would play them at a tempo at least approaching that which he had in mind. The one exception was, of course, Karl Straube, who knew exactly which speeds were appropriate for the organ works of Max Reger.
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