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OF THE MONTH
Ritchie Symphony 4
OF THE MONTH
Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Piano Works Vol. 4
Exotische Rhapsodie Op. 118 (1917) [14:01]
Zwielicht-Impressionen (1913) [4:33]
Heidebilder Op. 127 (1917) [17:00]
Zwei Klavierstücke (1902) [8:03]
Nächtlicher Regen [2:53]
Mosaik Op. 146 [27:27]
rec. Lazarus-Kirche, Nieder-Ramstadt, 9-12 January 2004 DDD
CPO 999773-2 [74:00]
was a teacher at the Leipzig Conservatory and made his name
as an organist. He composed much in various forms, including
for the harmonium, but for me has hitherto been a “one-hit
wonder” – the hit being the Marche Triomphale for organ “Nun
danket alle Gott”. Christopher Howell gave Volume
2 of this
piano series a rather mixed review in
2001, noting the credit given to the piano tuner. In this
respect Andreas Berg is still at his exercise with good results
but it might have been more interesting to know what make
of piano was used. The back liner has KAWAI pianos emblazoned
in red in the corner but whether it is an advert or a clue
I couldn’t be sure. Still, there are no reservations about
the sound on this disc.
We are told that pianist Ernst Breidenbach has “concertized” in many German
cities. I thought this a translation aberration until I discovered that the
word exists in an on-line dictionary. That aside, he seems at home in this
repertoire which mainly consists of miniatures. The exotic rhapsody which
opens the disc is the only individual piece with a span of more than six
minutes and some of the studies which form the last work – Mosaik – are very
fleeting indeed. The common characteristic might be thought of as “German
impressionism”, Karg-Elert’s natural roots mixed up with Debussy and the
main emphasis is on tonal colour.
opener, Exotische Rhapsodie has a subtitle – Jungle Impressions. This is a highly
original work which contains a veritable jungle of cleverly
interwoven material. Three “Twilight impressions” follow
and then Heidebilder (Heath pictures) which is a series of
10 brief named impressions. This music moves generally moves
slowly across the heath, observing nature closely on the
way. The two pieces which follow – Moto perpetuum and Arabeque
are relatively early and rather less individual. Nächtlicher
Regen (Nocturnal rain) was published as a stand alone piece
and is a particularly attractive work.
imagination goes into overdrive in Mosiak – his last published
work, a series of 29 “instructive pieces” i.e.
studies. The first three are grouped together as a Sonatine
in homage to the likes of Clementi and next five constitute
a mock-baroque Suite complete with Sarabande and Rigaudon.
After that, each piece has its own title and there is no
obvious pattern. Karg-Elert’s mission here was to make his
point concisely – none of the twenty-nine pieces lasts over
two minutes and the shortest takes a mere twenty-three seconds.
Most remarkable of all is number 24 (track 41) “Puh! Die
essen ja Menschenfleisch!” which
is about cannibalism and contains written text: “njan-ja-ho”.
Here the pianist vocalises this although it is apparently
not clear that this was Karg-Elert’s intention. The effect
is quite bizarre. Nevertheless, these pieces are worth listening
to and contain some of the most striking music on the disc.
Karg-Elert became ill and died just as Hitler came to power.
He was hardly mainstream in Leipzig beforehand and it is
hard to imagine that he would have thrived under the new
regime whilst writing such music.
are good notes which are mainly focused on the music and
an English translation which is about par for this source.
this is a typically interesting CPO offering which is well
worth giving a spin. We should be grateful to them for their
continuing exploration of such by-ways of the repertoire.
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