Sigfrid KARG-ELERT(1877-1933) The Complete Organ Works - Volume 8
22 Leichte Pedalstudien, op.83 (1913) [42:31]
Symphonic Chorale Ach, Bleib mit Deiner Gnade, op.87 no.1
Symphonic Chorale Jesu, Meine Freude, op.87 no.2 (1913) [22:31]
Stefan Engels (organ)
rec. Marienkirche, Hansestadt Salzwedel, Germany, 30-31 March 2011.
PRIORY PRCD1063 [73:51]
Though no great organist, the German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert
did write, alongside much else of quality, a lot of excellent
music for the organ, both original works and transcriptions
or arrangements. Now probably in the home straight, this is
volume eight of Stefan Engels' complete recording on various
organs for Priory, released concurrently with the seventh (PRCD
1062 - see review).
The works in this volume provide a broadly similar experience
to Volume 6 (see review).
The disc opens in similar fashion, with an ostensibly monolithic
work running to three-quarters of an hour. Like the twelve items
that make up the Sempre Semplice op.142, the 22 Leichte
Pedalstudien op.83 are frequently slow and soft - sometimes
very soft - in nature, creating an apt atmosphere of
quiet contemplation. As is often the case, what a composer labels
'leicht' ('easy') is not necessarily so - there are many technical
and indeed expressive challenges awaiting the organist, for
all the surface straightforwardness.
There is more volume and overt drama, though only in places,
in the virtuosic Symphonic Chorales of op.87, among Karg-Elert's
finest organ works. No.2, though it too starts serenely (a simmering
rather than raging 'Inferno'!), and continues along those lines
for the Canzone middle movement, eventually turns more
'sulphurous' than its Bach-recalling subtitle might imply. Indeed,
the work ends with a manual and pedal chord so massive that
an additional foot is actually required! Throughout the work
can be heard a much-iterated B-A-C-H motif.
At any rate, Karg-Elert's music is eminently accessible and
likeable and should appeal to anyone who appreciates the harmonic
language and formal innovation of the likes of Widor, Reger
Stefan Engels does another first-rate job here, bringing ample
technique, stamina and understated expression to this excellent
addition to a worthy series. He will doubtless be recalled by
some for his two volumes of Marcel Dupré's organ music
for Naxos in the Nineties (8.554210, 8.553920). Coincidentally,
his Priory edition is in direct competition with that of fellow
German Elke Völker on the Aeolus label, although she now
lags behind - volume 6 of her series, subtitled 'Ultimate Organ
Works', came out at the turn of the year (AE 10721). In price
terms, neither set comes cheap, with the Priory discs generally
to be had for around 10% less - although shopping around will
in most cases iron out the differential.
Recording quality is as ever very good, with Priory managing
to capture and balance the very softest sounds and the loudest
chords. The huge neo-Romantic Furtwängler & Hammer
organ at the Marienkirche in Salzwedel - pictured on the cover
- only dates back to 1913, although it retains the beautiful
Baroque façade of its predecessor, the damaged Joachim
Wagner organ of 1749. Its latest restoration was completed in
2007. Incidentally, another impressive Furtwängler &
Hammer can be heard on volume 5 - recorded at Verden Cathedral
in Saxony (PRCD 869).
As always, the Priory booklet is a joy to read, with a long
biography of the composer and as much again on the works heard
in volume 8 by Anthony Caldicott, chairman of the not-as-useful-as-it-could-be
Archive, followed by a brief history of the church and organ
by Engels, and the latter's full specification. There is also
a biography and cheery photo of an avuncular-looking Engels,
plus details of previous releases in the series. These CDs are
not likely to win any prizes for design, but the rather lurid
yellow is an improvement on the eye-unfriendly colour scheme
of volume 7.
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