Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bittmann, Antonius. “Reconciling God and Satan: Max Reger’s Phantasie und Fuge über den Namen B-A-C-H, Op. 46.” Journal of Musicology 18 (Summer 2001): 490-515.

Max Reger’s Phantasie und Fuge über den Namen B-A-C-H, Op. 46, was his attempt to balance the expressive values of Bach and Wagner within the fin de siècle anxiety over the future direction of German music. Aesthetic and ideological comparisons between Bach and Wagner were common in Reger’s time, and the two pillars of German music were often described as two dialectic poles with an understanding of one completing the understanding of the other. Along these lines, Reger described Bach as a remedy for the affliction of “Wagneritis,” what he saw as a misunderstanding of Wagner’s true identity. The opening of Phantasie draws heavily on Tristan und Isolde, prominently utilizing the Tristan chord in the opening measure and developing unresolved seventh chords in the same way as Wagner does in the Tristan prelude. The harmonic and polyphonic language Reger (and Wagner) uses is prefigured in Bach’s music. Reger models his Phantasie on Bach’s Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542 (and to a lesser extent, Liszt’s 1870 Präludium und Fuge über B-A-C-H), and the B-A-C-H theme is present throughout the work. Elements of Bach’s harmonic language—common chord tones and leading-tone chromaticism, for two—that are also used by Wagner are highlighted by Reger, who draws on both composers’ work. Reger also alludes to the moment of transfiguration for the morbidly ill protagonist in Richard Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung, further underscoring Phantasie’s purpose of curing the illness of Wagneritis. Through Phantasie, Reger hoped to synthesize and transcend Bach and Wagner, and to proclaim a new era free of pessimism and cultural illness.

Works: Reger: Phantasie und Fuge über den Namen B-A-C-H, Op. 46 (502-14)

Sources: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (502-9); J. S. Bach: Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542 (506-10); Richard Strauss: Tod und Verklärung (512-14)

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

Except where otherwise noted, this website is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
Creative Commons Attribution License