Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Frisch, Walter. “Reger’s Bach and Historicist Modernism.” 19th-Century Music 25 (Fall 2001): 296-312.

Max Reger developed an aesthetic of historicist modernism that placed J. S. Bach as the primary model. With the introduction of the Neue Bach-Gesellschaft and similar events around 1900, the nineteenth-century trend viewing Bach as the embodiment of the German musical spirit intensified. Part of this trend included emphasizing Bach’s melodic art, which was held to be more useful to modern composers than his counterpoint. Reger was an active participant in this trend of Bach discourse in several areas, including producing many arrangements of Bach’s music. Reger’s form of modernist historicism also manifests in his prolific composition of organ works and avoidance of symphonic poems and music dramas. Reger’s 1895 First Organ Suite, Op. 16, dedicated to the memory of J. S. Bach, draws on several historical models. Most notably, Reger borrows several chorales famously set by Bach, but he alludes to Brahms’s Fourth Symphony and Joseph Rheinberger’s Organ Sonata No. 8 as well. Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Bach, Op. 81 (1904), offers a more complex form of historicism, but one still rooted in the music of Bach. For its theme, Reger uses the opening ritornello of the aria “Sein’ Almacht zu ergründen” from Bach’s Cantata Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128. Throughout the fourteen variations, Reger develops the theme in two styles: strict–past and free–present with the fugue combining these styles. The work represents Reger’s nuanced awareness of historical time and documents his historicist modernism.

Works: Reger: Suite for Organ in E Minor, Op. 16 (301-307), Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Bach, Op. 81 (308-12)

Sources: J. S. Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582 (303), O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross, BWV 622 (303), Aus tiefer Not from Clavierübung, BWV 686 (305), Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128 (308-12); Rheinberger: Organ Sonata No. 8, Op. 132 (307); Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 (307)

Index Classifications: 1800s, 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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