Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
The Complete Organ Works - Vol. 6
Sempre Semplice, op.142 (1931) [44:37]
Sequenz no.2 in C minor, WoO.12 (1910) [6:38]
Sequenz no.1 in A minor, WoO.8 (1908) [4:24]
Sonatina in A minor, op.74 (1909) [19:19]
Stefan Engels (organ)
rec. St Bartholomew's Church, Armley, Leeds, England, 23 February 2011. DDD
PRIORY PRCD 1059 [76:16]
The German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert was no great organist, but he did write a lot of magnificent music for the organ, most of which still suffers from unforgivable neglect. There are many transcriptions and arrangements, of his own and others' works: his complete tribute to his outstanding predecessor and fellow Leipziger Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, featured on a recent and excellent Toccata Classics release - see review. Karg-Elert also wrote dozens of original works for the instrument, and since 2005 German organist Stefan Engels has been recording the lot of them on various organs for the ecclesiastical label Priory Records. This is volume six, but seven and eight have just been released (PRCD 1062, 1063).
Engels is remembered by some perhaps for his two volumes of Marcel Dupré's organ music for Naxos in the 1990s (8.554210, 8.553920). Funnily enough, Engels' edition is in direct competition with that of fellow German Elke Völker on the Aeolus label - volume 6 of her series, subtitled 'Ultimate Organ Works', came out earlier this year (AE 10721). The last three Aeolus discs do have the advantage of Hybrid Super-Audio quality. The four works on Engels' volume 6, however, have not appeared so far in Völker's traversal, the completion of which is by no means certain.
The works in this volume are generally of a slower, softer, more reflective nature than some of Karg-Elert's best-known 'fireworks' pieces, most notably the grandiloquent Passacaglia and Fugue on B.A.C.H. op.150, which has rounded off a few recitals in its time (this one by Hans Fagius, for example). Many of Karg-Elert's works were published with misleading opus numbers, sometimes deliberately. There are thus two opp.142, the suite of character pieces he labelled 'Sempre Semplice' and Three Pieces for organ from the previous year. At any rate, Karg-Elert's music should appeal to anyone comfortable with the harmonic language of, say, Widor, Reger or Vierne, although his style is his own. Engels gives a thoughtful, sympathetic reading.
Though not Super-Audio, recording quality here is very good, Priory's experience and expertise in this area readily apparent. The marvellous Edmund Schulze organ dates back to 1869, with a new console and pneumatic actions added in 1905, the date to which it has in recent times been restored. The accompanying booklet is a paragon. A long biography of the composer and as much again on the works heard in volume 6 by Anthony Caldicott, chairman of the Karg-Elert Archive, followed by a detailed description and full specification of the organ. A biography and cheery photo of Engels, plus details of previous releases in the series, round off nicely.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Karg-Elert represented by works that are generally of a slower, softer, more reflective nature.