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Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue in E minor, Op 127

composer
24 September 1913; first performance by Karl Straube on Riesenorgel in the Jahrhunderthalle in Breslau

 
The Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue Op 127 is from the last period in Reger’s life when he was increasingly incorporating into his writing a neo-classical aesthetic, namely greater leanness in the counterpoint, more translucent textures, and often greater brevity (although the latter does not apply in this case, it can be clearly seen in the Nine Pieces Op 129 written later that year).

So, after the traditional alternation of densely chromatic chordal writing and bravura flourishes at the opening of the Introduction, we soon hear some limpid figures in the right hand, lightly accompanied, before the heavier writing returns

The Passacaglia theme which is then announced softly in the pedals uses eleven notes of the chromatic scale (F natural is absent) and is followed by no fewer than 26 variations. They fall into a carefully-modulated scheme consisting of three groups: an early intensification of speed and weight, a retreat to a meditative central point, and a second, and more conclusive, intensification. A precise account of the progress of the variations will give an indication of the effective control of pace and excitement achieved by Reger.

1. mainly crotchets
2. quavers
3. triplet quavers
4. triplet quavers in thirds between manuals
5. semiquavers, developing right-hand motif
6. antiphonal writing between hands, using semiquavers
7. scherzando, with triplet semiquavers in thirds in the right hand
8. alternating flourishes and triplet semiquaver chords
9. lighter canonic writing in demisemiquavers
10. heavier chords and flourishes
11. rich counterpoint with semiquaver triplets—the early climax
12. ritenuto and diminuendo, highly chromatic, in semiquavers
13. soft crotchet chords, decorated by arpeggios
14. the still centre of the piece—magical crotchet chords beginning on E major
15. mysterious chromatic quavers
16. distant recollection of the Introduction with staccato octaves in the right hand
17. return of scherzando, triplet semiquavers in thirds in the right hand
18. rippling triplet demisemiquavers passed between hands
19. demisemiquavers in sixths between the hands, alternating with chords
20. dense chordal counterpoint in quavers
21. bravura toccata texture
22. increasingly bravura exchanges in triplet semiquavers
23. demisemiquavers in thirds in both hands—the extreme combination of speed and density
24. more declamatory chordal writing
25. heavy chordal counterpoint in up to eight parts, heralding conclusion
26. climactic return to opening rhythm, now doubled massively in up to eleven parts

The double Fugue is amongst Reger’s freest, in particular the first section which develops like a fantasia. It begins as an innocuous scherzando with semiquavers, played on the lightest 8.4.2. registers, showcasing Reger’s new style. In due course these become triplets, recalling textures from the Passacaglia, and then demisemiquavers in a challenging trio texture. The opening texture returns, but now steadily accumulates weight and volume until a cadence in D minor is reached. A second theme with a different shape and a more sostenuto style appears, ppp; but, before long, it too is overrun by triplet semiquavers and eventually a flurry of demisemiquavers. There is nothing to be done but to combine the themes (artfully designed, of course, for that very purpose) and to build to a conclusion of truly awesome grandeur, in which it seems as though every possible chord is tried out before E major finally arrives.

from notes by David Goode 2013

Recordings

Reger: Organ Music
SIGCD329Download only
Reger: Organ Music
CDA66223Archive Service

Details

Movement 1: Introduction and Passacaglia
Track 1 on CDA66223 [17'42] Archive Service
Movement 1a: Introduction
Track 4 on SIGCD329 CD1 [5'14] Download only
Movement 1b: Passacaglia
Track 5 on SIGCD329 CD1 [15'49] Download only
Movement 2: Fugue
Track 2 on CDA66223 [9'58] Archive Service
Track 6 on SIGCD329 CD1 [10'38] Download only

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