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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 20 November 2014

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CONCERTS & RECITALS

NOVEMBER 2014

The discovery of a recording of Karg-Elert playing the Art-harmonium raises some fascinating issues. In 1914 he would probably have been at the height of his powers, in his later thirties: after all, thirteen years later he was still able to perform his ferociously difficult Second Sonata at his fiftieth birthday celebrations. Questions about his technique relate more to the organ than to the Art-harmonium, which was always his favourite instrument.

Johann Titz very probably made the instrument on which Karg-Elert recorded. According to Gellerman’s International Reed Organ Atlas, the firm was established in 1880 in Lowenberg and was still active in 1930 under Titz’s widow. A handbill reproduced by Gellerman tells us that the sole agency for all countries was Carl Simon, who could supply a technical description with seven photographs for eighty pfennigs. Since Simon was Karg-Elert’s first major publisher, and was instrumental in introducing him to the Art-Harmonium, it is quite possible that a Titz instrument created the life-changing oppor­tunity in 1904 which helped to shape the composer’s musical development from then on. Certainly the firm later marketed a “Karg-Elert” harmonium, perhaps an example of the patronage which was a feature of Karg-Elert’s career from the earliest days.

The three books of Wagner transcriptions were among several works published by Peters in 1914, suggesting that the recording was made very soon after the piece was written: the others were the Impressions op.102 and the Idylls op.104 written for a suction instrument. Feierlicher Zug zum Münster is one of seven tran­scriptions from Lohengrin, including the Act 1 Prelude and Elsa’s Dream, in the second book, which also contains four excerpts from Parsifal and versions of two of the Wesendoncklieder.

The first book includes two excerpts from Rienzi, three from The Flying Dutchman
Karg-Elert’s Wagner Transcriptions for Harmonium
Wednesday, December 10
at 12.15 pm

MittWortsMusik
Jesuitkirche Luzern, Switzerland
op 65/6,2, 4, 7, 9, 8, 10 ,11

October 4, 2015
Richard Webb presents a recital of music by Karg-Elert in
The Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, USA
and seven from Tannhäuser. The final book consists of four excerpts from Tristan und Isolde, including the Prelude and Isoldes Liebestod, five from Die Meistersinger, Siegmund’s love-song and Brünnhilde’s Todesverkündigung from Die Walküre, Waldweben (Forest Murmurs) from Siegfried and the Funeral March from Götterdämmerung. All these tran­scriptions show great skill in incorporating the essential nature of complex vocal and orchestral material into music which can be played by two hands on a single keyboard. It is worth pointing out that in the days before extensive recording, transcriptions were the only way in which the majority could encounter these pieces. The Art-harmonium is arguably a more effective medium in conveying the essence of this music than the more percussive piano.

I have a great deal of affection for these pieces. I included the Brautchor (THE Wedding March) in a programme including Wedding Marches by Hollins and Chaminade, and played the Chorus of Flower Maidens (Parsifal) and Isoldes Liebestod in a recital of tran­scrip­tions at the Reed Organ Museum in Saltaire. I played the Liebestod  well enough to include a recording in a lecture I gave at Sheffield University, and included Winterstürme from Die Walküre in the recital which I gave as part of my M.Mus degree in 1995.

Preparing all these pieces for performance or dis­cus­sion emphasised a major problem in playing Karg-Elert’s music for the harmonium: registration. When Carl Simon was Karg-Elert’s main publisher, customers would know what the registrations meant, whether for “Vier­spiel” or Art-harmonium. Peters, who published a much wider range of music, would not be so familiar, meaning that more information was necessary for potential buyers. Their approach was rather haphazard. The Impressions have the registrations for all the pieces print­ed at the beginning: infuriating, since it means leafing back and forth to write in the registration for each piece. The first book of Portraits, published later, initially