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Sigfrid Karg-Elert - Symphonic Canzonas

Sigfrid Karg-Elert - Symphonic Canzonas cover picture

Gough Duo

Organ: Rupert Gough
Violin: Rachel Gough
Symphonic Chorale “Ach bleib mit deiner Gnade”, op. 87, no. 1 for organ

Völlige Hingabe, op.66, no.1 for voice, violin and organ

Sphärenmusik, op. 66, no. 2 for voice, violin and organ

Ich steh an deiner Krippe hier, op. 66, no. 3 for voice, violin and organ

Sanctus, op. 48B, no. 1 for violin and organ

Pastorale, op. 48B, no. 2 for violin and organ

Abendstern, op. 98, no. 1 for soprano and organ

Nun danket alle Gott, op. 65, no. 59 for organ

Vom Himmel hoch, op. 65, no. 10 for organ

Vom Himmel hoch, op. 78, no. 20 for soprano, violin and organ

Symphonic Chorale “Nun ruhen alle Wälder”, op. 87, no. 3 for soprano, violin and organ

Total playing time 64m 55s

Sigfrid Karg-Elert - Symphonic Canzonas

Soprano: Natalie Clifton-Griffith

Sigfrid Karg-Elert - Symphonic Canzonas

When Sigfrid Theodor Karg, the youngest of 12 children, was born in Oberndorf am Neckar (Germany) in 1877, his father, a book dealer, was already in poor health and having difficulty supporting the family. Constantly on the move, the family lived in many areas throughout German-speaking Europe. Sigfrid showed great promise as a composer at an early age and in 1896 went to the Leipzig Conservatory to study with Carl Reinecke, Salomon Jadassohn, and others.

In 1902 he was appointed head of the master class at the Magdeburg Conservatory. Not happy at Magdeburg, he left teaching altogether and concentrated full-time on composition. Edvard Grieg recommended his work to several publishers resulting in performances from Busoni, Kreutzer, and Reger. By 1919 he returned to Leipzig to teach at the Leipzig Conservatory once more. A rather dark time in the composer’s life intervened between 1920 and 1926 when he was being criticized by some of his peers for not being nationalistic enough, and too cosmopolitan.

His life’s wish was to become organist at the church at Vorstadt or Heiland, but some five attempts to secure these positions came to nothing. His association with the Avant-Garde, his improvisatory virtuosity, and his nonconformist tendencies may have been contributing factors.

In 1930, Karg-Elert took part in a Karg-Elert Festival in London, and a year later he was asked to perform in the USA, where he presented more than twenty organ concerts. He was offered the position of organ teacher at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, but due to his failing health, he declined. He died on September 4, 1933, and was buried in the Leipzig Südfriedhof.

Although Karg-Elert wrote a number of songs for voice and piano, he composed very few for voice and organ; these are of exceptional interest, not only for their imaginative word-setting but also for characteristically resourceful accompaniments.

Notes on the music written by Anthony Caldicott

For more information visit the Karg-Elert Archive.

Karg-Elert’s Third Symphonic Canzona op. 85 no. 3 has previously been recorded by the Gough Duo and the Girl Choristers of Wells Cathedral on the Lammas Records CD Ave Maria.

Gough Duo - Rachel Gough & Rupert Gough

The Gough Duo was formed in 1997 to explore the original repertoire of music for violin and organ. Being the only regular violin and organ duo in Britain, their performances have aroused much interest and they now pursue their concert career across the U.K. and abroad. The Duo regularly tours the USA and has performed widely from New York to Dallas and Florida to Alaska. They have also been featured at a number of Music Festivals in England, Denmark and Italy.

The Duo enjoy the challenge of performing in a variety of venues, and with organs ranging from 2-stop chamber instruments to 5-manual cathedral and concert organs. Critics have praised them for their ensemble and musical interpretations.

They are committed to promoting new music for violin and organ and have had many pieces especially composed for them.

More information about the Duo can be found on their website.

Rachel Gough

Rachel Gough attended the University of East Anglia, where she won performance scholarships enabling her to study with Hugh Maguire, and graduated with First Class Honours in Music. With a scholarship from The Wall Trust she entered the Royal College of Music, studying with Frances Mason. She graduated in 1997 with an MMus Degree in Advanced Performance. Rachel is a violin tutor at Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School, and performs and records regularly as a chamber and solo violinist.

Rupert Gough

Rupert Gough is Director of Choral Music and College Organist at Royal Holloway, University of London. After 11 years as Assistant Organist at Wells Cathedral he is increasingly in demand as a choral and orchestral conductor and has conducted performances with Julian Lloyd Webber, Wayne Marshall, James Bowman, Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rolfe Johnson. At the 2001 St. Alban's International Organ competition he was awarded Third Prize. He also teaches organ at Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School where he has prepared a number of pupils for Oxbridge scholarships and study in Conservatoires. Rupert has been involved in some thirty commercial recordings as an organ soloist, accompanist, harpsichordist and conductor on many labels.

Natalie Clifton-Griffith

Natalie Clifton-Griffith graduated from the Birmingham Conservatoire in 1996 with First Class Honours and the Graduates Year Prize and received Honorary Membership in 2002. She completed her training at The Royal College of Music with Elizabeth Robson during which time she won the 1998 Bach Handel Competition, 2nd Prize at Great Elm Vocal Awards and was a finalist in the 1997 Lies Askonas Competition. Since being awarded 2nd Prize at The First London Handel Festival Singing Competition in 2002, Natalie is gaining a growing reputation for her performances from the Baroque and Classical repertoire.

Highlights of her career include Carissimi's Jeptha (Turku Festival, Finland), Bach's Magnificat (Barbican Hall, ECO), St John Passion (Hanover Band), Mass in B Minor (Lyon and Tudeley Festivals), Cantata 209 Non sa che sia dolore (Purcell Room), Cantata 82a Ich Habe Genug (Exeter Cathedral) and Messiah most recently at the Winchester Festival. Performances at the 2003 London Handel Festival included Dafne in the staged cantata Apollo e Dafne and Cleopatra in the oratorio Alexander Balus.

Natalie appears regularly as a soloist with Armonico Tributo, Philomela (Madrid and The Canary Islands), Quintessential (Warwick Early Music Festival), The English Concert (Biber Missa Christi Resurgentis, Handel's Dixit Dominus, QEH and Bath Festival and Vivaldi's Gloria) and Ex Cathedra on CD and concerts including Lalande's Dies Irae (BBC Proms), Bach's Mass in B minor (Festival de Musique Ancienne de Lyon), Handel's Solomon and Purcell's Fairy Queen (Symphony Hall).

The Organ

The Basilica of St. Gregory the Great, Downside Abbey Church, is the largest, and arguably the finest, of the 'neo-Gothic', post-Reformation catholic churches in England. The present organ is the third instrument installed in the building and was by the John Compton Organ Company in 1931. The organ was regularly heard on BBC radio broadcasts given by Dom Gregory Murray.

The vast scheme incorporated many of the new features of electrical pipe-organ technology then available, such as sophisticated extension principles, luminous stop-buttons, double-touch keys and pistons and sustainers. The Downside organ is recognized as being one of the finest surviving examples of John Compton's abilities both as a tonal designer and as an organ engineer. Using the extension system, Compton demonstrated that, by adherence to strict disciplines, it was possible for such an instrument to succeed and that the effect could be musical. From what, conventionally, would be classed as a small organ, artistically produced pipe tones could be combined to create other sounds, equally satisfying, without resorting to extra separate stops. Undoubtedly the fine acoustic of the Abbey Church also helps the sounds of the instrument to combine to great effect.

The organ pipework is situated in the gallery of the south transept behind an oak screen designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and the entire organ is enclosed in three expressive chambers: Great/Choir, Swell/solo and Tubas. The console is situated at the front of the nave and is made using timber from H.M.S. Bellerophon which was used to transport Napoleon after Waterloo.

The 1931 Compton Organ in Downside Abbey is an ideal instrument for the music of Karg-Elert. The wide range of dynamics, orchestral expression, ethereal effects and unusual tone combinations indicated in the score can all be achieved effectively on this organ in the Abbey's reverberant acoustic. The organ is one of the finest surviving examples of this form of extension organ and dates from the period when Karg-Elert himself came to England for a festival of his music. Sadly the organ is in need of restoration and it is hoped that the imperfections in tuning and voicing and noise of action and blowers will not detract from the performance.

The Gough Duo would like to thank the following for their help:
Anthony Caldicott and the Karg-Elert Archive, the Karg-Elert Gesellschaft, Alan Moorse for his translations, Richard Barnes, Chris Tambling, Ralph Kerr (for coming to the rescue), and the Monks of Downside Abbey.

The Duo would like to dedicate this recording to their daughter Madeleine Isabelle, who knows this music inside & out!

Recorded in Downside Abbey on 4th and 6th April 2005 by kind permission of the Abbott, Dom Richard Yeo

Produced by David Bednall
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph of Karg-Elert copyright Karg-Elert Gesellschaft