Sigfrid Karg-Elert

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German composer, performer, and organist

  • November 21, 1877 born in Oberndorf am Neckmar, Germany
  • about 1882, at the age of 5, he moved with his family to Leipzig. He was the youngest of 12 children. In Leipzig he studied music and composition under the direction of Bruno Röthig, cantor at Johanniskirche, where Karg was a member of the choir.
  • 1889 Karg's father died, leaving no money for music lessons. However, a family loaned him a piano so he could continue to practice and study.
  • 1891-1893 Karg was sent to Grimma by the Church Director, to train to become a music teacher
  • 1893 Karg moved to Markranstädt where he supported himself as a freelance musician while studying philosophy and music theory.
  • 1896 Karg returned to Leipzig to study at the Conservatory, where his teachers included Emil Nikolaus von Rezniček, Carl Reinecke, Salomon Jadassohn, Paul Homeyer and Karl Wendling. He studied composition with Reisenauer.
  • 1900 A performance of Karg's First Piano Concerto, in which he was the soloist, was a great success, earning him an extension of his scholarship. He began to study composition with Teichmüller, a decision that caused a breach in his relationship with Reisenauer. Karg began adding his mother's maiden name, Elert, to his name with his first published composition.
  • 1902 Karg-Elert was appointed head of the piano masterclass at the Magdeburg Conservatory. He met and developed a friendship with Grieg, who encouraged his composition and mentored him throughout his life. Grieg became an important influence on Karg-Elert's style.
  • 1903 Karg-Elert began composing for the harmonium, which dominated his composing and performing for the next 10 years. The harmonium is a type of reed organ.
  • 1910 married Minna Kretzschmar.
  • 1915 he enlisted in the army during WWI, but he never saw action due to his work as a musician.
  • 1917 Karg-Elert experienced a musical and personal crisis after being rejected as the organist at Berlin Cathedral. He destroyed about 20 of his works, seeking a return to ‘the purity of classical and romantic art’, as did many composers of that period. He never gained a permanent post as organist, although after the war he succeeded Reger at the Leipzig Conservatory.
  • 1924 he began broadcasting weekly harmonium concerts from his home. In the later 1920's he began to experience increasing pressure and even ostracism in Germany because of his modernist image, his popularity in England, and the French or English titles of some of his works.
  • 1932 Karg-Elert undertook a concert tour in America, which was a disaster due to his declining health.
  • April 9, 1933 died in Leipzig, Germany

For details, see the Sigfried Karg-Elert article on Wikipedia.

See also Oxford Music Online:

List of Organ Works[edit]

Click to sort by opus number, title, or year of composition or publication
Opus Title Year
Op. 65 66 Choral-Improvisationen fur Orgel 1906-1908
Op. 96 Pastels from the Lake of Constance 1921
Op. 106 Cathedral Windows 1923
Op. 150 Passacaglia and Fugue on BACH 1931-1932
Op. ?? Title year
Op. ?? Title year
Op. ?? Title year

Background and General Perspectives on Performing Karg-Elert Organ Works[edit]

Karg-Elert composed many short and interesting pieces.

  • Forms: cantus firmus settings, character pieces, passacaglias, chaconnes, fugues, canzonas, and partitas
  • Musical categories: simple harmonic, contrapuntal (historical), mixed styles, tone paintings, and final phase

According to Oxford music online, Karg-Elert "tended to avoid sonata form and fugue in favour of an emphasis on timbre, and his large-scale structures have a tendency to sprawl. . .He was particularly successful in extended variation forms such as the passacaglia and chaconne. Though he experimented with atonality, a warmly chromatic musical language featuring lush harmonies and complex key relationships is more characteristic of his output."

According to Wikipedia, "in general terms, [Karg-Elert's] musical style can be characterised as being late-romantic with impressionistic and expressionistic tendencies. His profound knowledge of music theory allowed him to stretch the limits of traditional harmony without losing tonal coherence."

Registration and Organs[edit]

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See the footnote in the "Notes" section at the bottom of the page[1]

Fingering and Pedaling[edit]

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Articulation and Phrasing[edit]

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Tempo and Meter[edit]

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Scores and Editions[edit]

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Free Online[edit]

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Opus 65 no. 59, Nun danket alle Gott - Marche triomphale:

Opus 96, 7 Pastels from the Lake of Constance:

Opus 106, Cathedral Windows: Lauda Sion:

Opus 150, Passacaglia and Fugue on BACH, performed by Jeremy Filsell: Part 1:; Part 2:; Part 3:; Part 4 (Fugue):

Pay to Listen[edit]

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Other Resources[edit]

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  1. This footnote was entered in the "Registration and Organs" section

This space is for automatic insertion of footnotes. To enter a footnote from anywhere in the article, start by typing the tag <ref> and then enter the text, and type the tag </ref> to end the footnote. The footnote will then appear in this "Notes" section automatically.