> Sigfrid KARG-ELERT- Cathedral windows[CA]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Cathedral windows

Organ works: 1-3. Jesu, meine Freude – Symphonic Chorale, Op.87 No.2 :- Introduzione (Inferno) - Canzone - Fuga con corale, 4. Canzone in G flat major, Op 46b, 5-10. Cathedral Windows - Six pieces on Gregorian tunes, Op. 106: - I. Kyrie eleison - II. Ave maria - III. Resonet in laudibus - IV. Adeste fideles - V. Saluto angelico - VI. Lauda Sion, 11-15. Symphony in F sharp minor, Op.134: - Lento misterioso - Allegro brioso ed energico - Presto demoniaco - Largo e quieto - Vivace e brioso.
Hans Fagius, Organist
Organ by: Frobenius, 1928, Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark
Recorded:10-12/04/2000 at Aarhus cathedral, Denmark
BIS-CD-1184 [79’13]

The German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert is one of the most important composers of his time and his organ music stands high in the literature of that instrument. He wrote more than two hundred compositions for the organ not to mention his other works for chamber music, piano and voices as well as pieces for harmonium, the demanding keyboard instrument of the 19th century. The following quotation expresses his preference for this instrument, which dominated his life as a performer and as a composer for more than ten years: "The Kunstharmonium with its capacity for expressiveness, its wealth of differentiation of tone and its technical perfection became the instrument which met my highly strung artistic demands."

His first compositions for organ were actually arrangements of previous harmonium pieces. His compositional style was strongly influenced by Debussy, Scriabin and Schoenberg. Thus his musical language is chromatic with complex key modulations and relationships. Despite this the result deliver a warm melodic line. His detailed organ registrations, as Hans Fagius points out in the booklet, are "…highly original with their bright and transparent world of timbres; a world that distinguishes itself from the usual late-romantic style."

The Symphonic Chorales were published in 1913. The second chorale Jesu, meine Freunde is dedicated to Karl Straube, the distinguished organist of Thomas Church. It has a symphonic structure and a variety of dynamics and different forms. The canzone in G flat is referred to in the booklet as "…very probably a transcription of the middle movement from the large Sonata on BACH for harmonium, Op. 46, published in 1912." The Cathedral Windows, which were published in England in 1923, are based on Gregorian tunes and they are referred to by Karg-Elert himself as being in "a pure organ style". The mood is highly impressionistic with all the melodies associated with Christmas. The symphony in F sharp minor, from 1930, was never published during his lifetime. It was discovered in 1984 and printed in 1987. It is a long and technically demanding piece played without any break.

Fagius’s approach to the music of Karg-Elert is very well presented. He deals tastefully with the different forms and styles and maintains appropriate energy all way through. He plays with plenty of virtuoso fire, balanced with the necessary expressive treatment. His sense of rubato produces nice melodic lines, even though occasionally a greater sense of space would help the organ to fill the acoustic. Also a wider variety of touch would help the expressiveness of the lines. The registrations are well chosen according to the composer’s wishes. The musical effects produced in the magnificent acoustic of the cathedral by the Frobenius organ are stunning.

The booklet with Fagius’s notes is very well written and forms a necessary accompaniment to the CD itself. In general, this release is one to covet.

Christina Antoniadou


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