CD-Review: The Duos for Harmonium and Piano, Sigfrid Karg-Elert


E.A. Peterson

The Duos for Harmonium and Piano, Sigfrid Karg-Elert
Johannes Matthias Michel, Kunstharmonium
Ernst Breidenbach, Klavier
Signum CD - SIG X77-00, (No price given)

Poesien (Poems), Op. 35, Nos. 1-5
Silhouetten (Silhouettes), Op.29, Nos. 1-7
Vier Duos (Four Duos), Op. 26, Nos. 1,4,6,7
Leichte Duos (Easy Duos), Op. 2, Nos. 1-3
Aus meiner Schwabenheimat (From My Swabian Homeland), Op. 38, No. 8

Reprinted from Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring 1997 of the *ROS Bulletin*, journal of the Reed Organ Society, Inc., and used with permission of the editor. COPYRIGHTED with ALL OTHER RIGHTS RESERVED.

In sixty-three and one-half minutes Johannes Matthias Michel and Ernst Breidenbach take the listener through a engaging variety of Karg-Elert s compositions for art-harmonium and piano. The textural and dramatic contrasts and a seemingly unforced spontaneity elegantly display Karg-Elert s use and understanding of the artistic elements of his time. Equally elegant is the complete mastery and understanding of the music by Michel and Breidenbach. The duo goes far beyond merely getting the notes right and Michel particularly has managed to display the art-harmonium as it was surely meant to be displayed. With his masterful grasp of the nuances and sublime subtleties available from the art-harmonium, the orchestral effects possible from this combination of instruments come about naturally and effectively. It is not surprising that Michel is also chairman of the German Karg-Elert Society.

Of the twenty individual pieces in this collection, the writer found Ideals (No. 5 of Op. 35) intriguing with its symphonic piano part played against the art-harmonium s divided wind pressure which provided a sophisticated method of highlighting the melody in the five-voice texture in the song-like conclusion to the cycle.

Numbers three (Dance ancienne), five (Quasi Minuetto) and six (Tempo di Ballo) from Silhouettes display Karg-Elert s enthusiasm for the characteristic dance forms and the three pieces come as near as anything on the disc to being considered toe-tapping . A fast-paced Scherzino ends the set.

The Reverie from the Four Duos has a haunting melody and is perhaps one of the more structured pieces with its welcomed reprise of the theme near the conclusion. These duos were originally composed for solo harmonium but Karg-Elert later arranged them for the piano/harmonium combination.

An interesting side light was discovered in the liner notes where we learned that, like certain reed organ manufacturers whose products were marketed under a variety of labels, Karg-Elert had an affinity for pseudonyms and allonyms to suit his peculiar purposes. In addition to Roderich Bergk , he used Baptist Karg for compositions in the old style, Dr. Otto Bergk for intellectual introductions, and lastly Teo von Oberndorff was called into service to compose the salon pieces. The Easy Duos were of this last provenance, serving his publisher s need to supply music suitable for amateurs and other lovers of Hausmusik.

For those who enjoy the music of Karg-Elert plus the combination of harmonium and piano, the recording will be a welcomed addition to their recording libraries.

Last update to this page has been made on February 25, 2005