Music for the Baptism of the Lord — Sunday, January 9, 2022

Nun danket alle Gott (Op. 65) – Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)


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Sigfrid Karg-Elert was a German composer of considerable fame in the early twentieth century, best known for his compositions for organ and harmonium.


The cultural climate in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s was very hostile to the internationally oriented, French-influenced Karg-Elert; and although his works were admired outside Germany, especially in the U.K. and in the U.S.A., in his home country his music was almost completely neglected.


Notable influences in his work include composers Johann Sebastian Bach (he often used the BACH motif in Bach’s honour), Edvard Grieg, Claude Debussy, Max Reger, Alexander Scriabin, and early Arnold Schoenberg. In general terms, his 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.


Today’s postlude in church, subtitled Marche Triomphale, uses a chorale tune that is familiar to European and North American listeners (Nun danket alle Gott – “Now thank we all our God”). The cantus firmus (tune) is somewhat hidden in the thick texture, but the piece, in da capo form, is concise and avoids the rambling found in some of Karg-Elert’s other works.


Gerald Harder