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Sigfrid Karg-Elert
1877 - 1933
Germany
Picture Picture
S. Karg-Elert
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (21/11/1877 - 09/04/1933), a German composer and theorist, born in Oberndorf am Neckar. He composed a lot of music for the harmonium. He was a teacher of composition, music theory and piano at the conservatory of Leipzig.
Requiem aeternam
Period:Expressionism
Composed in:1913
Musical form:fragment
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:4'25''
Label(s):CPO 999 631-2
Genuin GEN 88130
Requiem Aeternam, Op.109, is for a cappella mixed choir, 4-8 voices (SSAAATTBB). This CPO - cd is, methinks, a release for a very specialised audience. The instrument used, the harmonium d'art (also known as the Kunstharmonium) was popular at the turn of the century, and between 1903 and 1915 Karg-Elert wrote in excess of one hundred pieces for it, including a full-blown Sonata (1905).
The 33 Portraits (in two books) make up the vast majority of the playing time here. This piece constitutes a virtuoso study in pastiche and moves chronologically from the devotional Requiem aeternam (a la Palestrina) and a jaunty Vilanella (in the style of Lassus), through a well-contrasted threesome of Gluck (Overture) Haydn (Rondo) and Mozart (Fantasia) before passing into the Romantic period culminating in Wagner (predictably, the longest movement) and the shortest slow movement Bruckner never wrote (3 minutes 17 seconds). On, then, to representations of the early twentieth century and the distinctly unmystic (though not for want of trying) Scriabin, a not particularly recognisable Debussy and the final pièce de résistence, Subtile Düfter der Wunderblume. True to the spirit of one who enjoys playing games, this last is subtitled 'Onirot di Alle-Ir-Bag'. Not Arabic (or even some turn of the century occultist jargon), but the name of its dedicatee, just spelt backwards. It's all very sweet the first time round, although even then the sheer length is daunting. Interesting, also, to hear pastiches of composers not so well known today (MacDowell and Sinding get a movement each). It has to be said, though, that there is a surprisingly large array of sound combinations to be gleaned from the harmonium d'art, and they are used to good effect here. In the spirit of all this gamery, the final pieces after the Portraits were published under pseudonyms: Baptiste Karg, Teo von Oberndorff, Wolfgang Ey, Roderich Bergk and Dr Ottmar Bergk. The twittering of Einsames Vögelein ('Oberndorff') is delicious and under the umbrella of anonymity, the Zwei Expressionismen demonstrate Karg-Elert's more experimental side. The Portraits are preceded by Renaissance, Op. 57 (perhaps not the most gripping start to the set, and perhaps better not to think too much of funeral parlours) and the inconsequential and forgettable Sicilienne. An interesting couple of hours' listening, but not to be taken in one go.
Author:Colin Clarke
Notable contributors to the 20th-century repertory are Bresgen, Duruflé, Guerrini, Karg-Elert, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Maliszewski, Sutermeister, Thompson, Thomson, Zandonai and Zanella.
Author:James W. Pruett
Source:The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians