Max Reger was an interesting figure in late German Romanticism. He used the very chromatic harmonies one would expect in such music. However, in some of his organ works, his marries the dense counterpoint of J.S. Bach with the harmonies of late German Romanticism. I’ve loved his work since I first heard it, as I’ve always had a love for the fugal forms.
In Bach’s time, there were two important genres of organ music, the chorale prelude and the chorale fantasy. The chorale prelude is based off of a Lutheran hymn. The melody of the hymn will be in one voice while countermelodies in the other voices play against it. The chorale fantasy is a bit longer, though similar processes as used. The chorale fantasy I’m going to feature, namely Reger’s Chorale Fantasy on Hallelujah! Gott zu loben bleibe meine Seelenfreud features a fantasy on the chorale melody. For those who don’t speak German, the name of the hymn “Hallelujah! Gott zu loben bleibe meine Seelenfreud” means “Hallelujah! The Praise of God Remains My Soul’s Joy”.
The Korean organist Ji Su-ryeon performs this work on an Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, though I’m not sure which Aeolian-Skinner this is. Aeolian-Skinner was, before their demise in 1971, some of the finest builders of American organs. Under the leadership of the founder E.M. Skinner and his successor G. Donald Harrison, Aeolian-Skinner made some of the finest instruments this country has ever seen. Some of the most famous instruments they made are the organs in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the organ of The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, and elsewhere. (The Community of Christ, until recently known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also has a large Aeolian-Skinner in The Auditorium in Independence, MO.)