BASED IN ENGLAND

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CATHEDRAL MUSIC

The website of the Karg-Elert Archive with news and comment from around the world

Sigfrid Karg-Elert, 1877-1933, was an important German composer of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

The Karg-Elert Archive was originally founded in 1987 with the objective of encouraging the performance, recording and publication of the composer’s music. Growing in appreciation by a widening circle of performers and discriminating audiences; it represents a peak of late Romantic music in its emotional intensity, variety of styles and imaginative use of resources, both instrumental and vocal.

The Karg-Elert Archive

Founded in 1987 as the Karg-Elert Society. The Archive is based in England.


President

Prof Graham Barber

(Professor Emeritus, Leeds University, and Organist of
St Bartholomew’s

Church, Armley, Leeds)


Vice-President

Dr Martin Neary

(Late President, Royal College of Organists)

Chairman
Anthony Caldicott

Membership Secretary
Richard Walker

General Enquiries
Contact the Archive

Patrons of the Archive  David Hill (BBC); John Scott Whiteley (Assist. Organist, York Minster); Dr Harry Bramma (Former Organist, Southwark Cathedral, London); Simon Lindley (Leeds Parish Church and Leeds City Organist, Yorkshire); John Scott (Organist, St Thomas’ Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, USA)
Richard Walker (Former Director of Music, Harrow School, Greater London); Nicolas Kynaston (Concert Organist, London)

Honorary Members  Prof Wolfgang Stockmeier; Heinrich Schwaab; Prof Stefan Engels; Dr Harold Fabrikant; Staffan Thuringer; Terry Truman; Elke Völker

Fellows  Frank Conley; Dr Harold Fabrikant  Life Members  Barry Doe; Michael Jones; Tony Luker; Ronald Smith; Dr Craig Scott Symons; Dr Richard Webb
Marko Heese; Richard Crane; Frank Conley

Foundation Member  Dr Brian Parsons  Corporate Membership  The Royal College of Music, London; Göteborg Organ Art Center, Sweden


© The Karg-Elert Archive. Updated 17 February 2015

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CONCERTS & RECITALS

FEBRUARY 2015

Seven Pastels at Westminster Cathedral
January 11 2015
Tuesday, April 14
Grote Zaal at 20.15
Philharmonie Haarlem, Netherlands
Price: €7,50 includes drink and warderobe
Stefan Engels (organ)

Sinfonischer Choral
Jesu, meine Freude op 87/2

October 4, 2015

Richard Webb presents a recital of music by Karg-Elert in
The Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, USA

A performance of the complete Seven Pastels from the Lake of Constance op 96 is certainly a challenging experience both for the player and the audience. Recent performances in Rochester and Derby Cathedrals have justified the initiative shown by the performers on both occasions (Charles Andrews and Tom Corfield), when their interpretation of this unique work was greatly appreciated. Although the Pastels' dedicatee, Arthur Nickson, described them as 'Tone Poems, converting sensations of physical beauty into the mysteries of sound' they also possess a unity of style and content not immediately apparent at first hearing. This aspect of the Pastels is drawn out by another gifted soloist, Dr Elke Völker, who, in the introductory notes to her 2008 recording on the Aeolus label, comments 'Whether or not the work as a whole can be spoken of as a fantasia on BACH, semitone tetrachords are one of the main building blocks of all seven Pastels.' There is, admittedly, a necessity for the visual and structural aspect of the Pastels to be conveyed to the audience; this was reflected in the Archive's 25th Anniversary brochure of 2012, when a commentary on the Pastels was enhanced by an imaginative set of images  provided by Archive Life Member Marko Heese.


While an instrument such as the mighty Willis organ  in Westminster Cathedral provides all the tonal colours one could possibly want in realising Karg-Elert's complex indications for registration (hardly those of the composer himself, I suspect), conditions for the recitals at Westminster on Sunday afternoons are far from ideal. 'Front of house' staff there are none, nor is anyone in evidence to collect donations afterwards. The impression is given that these recitals are merely an interlude between Vespers and the 5.30 pm Mass; the main altar candles are kept burning throughout, while a constant tramp of feet and sometimes even chatter accompanies the music. The timing of 4.45 pm also competes with recitals at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, the only occasions  on Sundays (apart from services)

when it is possible to visit both buildings, and which therefore attract large audiences. However, those who came to hear Ben Bloor, Westminster Cathedral's very talented Organ Scholar on January 11 2015, were afforded the rare privilege of hearing as good a performance of the Pastels as I've ever experienced.


Without any of those elements which might have served to enhance its appreciation,  the music simply had (stating the obvious) 'to speak for itself'. Far above, visually detached from an audience spread around the vast interior, the player presented the music as the composer himself would have wished. Precise attention was given throughout to choice of tempi and selection of stops, creating the often bizarre but fascinating tonalities which make hearing the Pastels such a rewarding experience.

Everyone has their special favourites among them; having learned, with much difficulty, no 5, The Sun's Evensong, I looked forward to hearing this eloquent reflection of a dying sun, (complete with funeral march!), then the wonderful silvery shimmering in no 6, The Mirrored Moon, and the final, cataclysmic Hymn to the


Stars, all three representing Karg-Elert's reaching out from familiar scenes around the Bodensee to the distant mysteries of sun, moon, and stars. He later portrayed the magical effect of starlight in his opus 108: 'unter dem gestirnten Himmel', but in opus 96 the composer felt inspired to conclude the Pastels with a hymn unlike any other, replete with exotic modulations, the full organ expressing the praises of the entire cosmos, gradually vanishing, while the fixed note above still reflected the last tiny point of light in an infinitely distant galaxy.  Every detail of this magical movement was faithfully executed in an interpretation which concluded a performance comprising exceptional and insightful maturity throughout; Ben Bloor is to be congratulated on such a memorable achievement.


Anthony Caldicott