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Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
The Complete Organ Works - Volume 10
Stefan Engels (organ)
rec. October 2011, on the Wacker Organ at St. Georg, Ulm
Full track-listing below
PRIORY PRCD 1074 [78:07]

Karg-Elert’s Op.65 Chorale-Improvisations are one of his towering contributions to the organ literature. In this disc, volume 10 of the composer’s complete works, we have the third and fourth volumes of Op.65, which equates to a third of the total of 66, namely Nos. 23 to 44.
The music is related to specific services or times of the year. It is brilliantly conceived and no less splendidly interpreted by Stefan Engels on the Wacker Organ at St. Georg, Ulm. The music’s syntax is varied. Sometimes it’s Regerian, as in Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her, but it can also be lighter in tone but building incrementally in grandeur - as the very next piece shows. Contrast is inevitable, given that the pieces were not intended to be performed sequentially. Yet the use of pealing registrations or withdrawn introspective writing does generate its own logic in the context of a recording such as this. Bachian canonic writing is clearly important to Karg-Elert, as in Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt but the passionately hymnal setting of Nach einer Prüfung kurzer Tage explores another element of the writing.
Nun lasst uns Gott dem Herren sounds, in places, not unlike All Through the Night, but it’s meshed in a setting both intense and gloriously vigorous, in much the same way that the exuberant and extrovert fantasia Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme pays due homage to the Lutheran Bach. Volume 4 is associated with Ascension and Pentecost, as the earlier volume was related to New Year, Easter and several of the Feast Days. True grandeur animates Jesu, meine Freude, one of his most resplendent and magnificent settings. But the subtlety of the chorale O Durchbrecher aller bande is just as effective, not least in the deployment of the solo trumpet 8’.
This last matter points to Engels’ mastery of registrations and to his command of the sheer amplitude, but also the occasional introspective cast of the music. The recording has captured all this in great detail but has also allowed the acoustic of St. Georg, Ulm to play its necessary part as the music swells but does not cloud. Outstanding notes too. This series goes from strength to strength.
Jonathan Woolf  

Reviews of other releases in this series: Volume 6 ~~ Volume 7 ~~ Volume 8
Choral-Improvisations Op.65 (1909)
Volume 3
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (Gloria in excelsis Deo), Op. 65 No. 23 [3:50]
Dir, dir, Jehova, will ich singen, Op. 65 No. 24 [3:35]
Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag, Op. 65 No. 25 [1:17]
Jesu, hilf siegen, du Fürste des Lebens, Op. 65 No. 26 [3:22]
Jesus, meine Zuversicht, Op. 65 No. 27 [4:33]
Lobe den Herren, Op.65 No.28 [3:02]
Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt, Op. 65 No. 29 [2:46]
Nach einer Prüfung kurzer Tage, Op. 65 No. 30 [3:50]
Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren, Op. 65 No. 31 [3:56]
Ringe recht, wenn Gottes Gnade, Op. 65 No. 32 [1:51]
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Op. 65 No. 33 [5:12]
Volume 4
Ach Gott und Herr (Zeuch uns nach dir), Op. 65 No. 34 [3:03]
Gott das Himmels und der Erden (Komm, o komm du Geist des Lebens), Op. 65 No. 35 [3:01]
Herr, wie du willst, Op. 65 No. 36 [4:34]
Ich danke dir, lieber Herre (O komm, du Geist der Wahrheit), Op. 65 No. 37 [3:01]
Jesu, meine Freude, Op. 65 No. 38 [5:35]
Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, Op. 65 No. 39 [2:30]
O daß ich tausend Zungen hätte (Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende), Op. 65 No. 40 [5:20]
O Durchbrecher aller bande, Op. 65 No. 41 [3:31]
O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, Op. 65 No. 42 [3:17]
O Gott, du frommer Gott, Op. 65 No. 43 [2:52]
Wie schön leucht' uns der Morgenstern, Op. 65 No. 44 [2:39]