Sigrid Karg-Elert (1877-1932)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for upper college undergraduates and master students
Amy Porter. Sonata Appassionata in F-Sharp Minor for Flute Solo, Op. 140. Amy Porter, 2007. MP3.
Larson, Julia Ann. “Flute without Accompaniment: Works from Debussy: “Syrinx” (1913) to Varese: “Density 21.5″ (1936).” Order No. 9121464 University of Maryland, College Park, 1990. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 30 Sep. 2016.
Sigfrid Karg was born in 1877 in the town of Oberndorf am Neckar, Germany. His family moved to Leipzig when he was five, where he took his first music lessons from the cantor of the Johanniskirche choir, Bruno Röthig. When Karg was twelve, his father died leaving behind his mother, Marie Friederike Ehlert, and his eleven older siblings. Although his mother could no longer afford lessons, Röthig continued Karg’s lessons thanks to a gift of a piano from a wealthy Leipzig family. Karg began composing choral pieces, motets, and a Christmas cantata without any theory training. He moved to Grimma to become a school teacher where he learned to play the flute, oboe, and clarinet. Karg had a shift in his life when his fiancé Maria Oelze was forced to break off the engagement by her father and then later fathered a child with Henriette Kretzschmar. He focused on his compositions intensely and studied harmonium. Karg took his mother’s maiden name when he was appointed the head of the piano department of the Magdeburg Conservatory. Karg-Elert died in 1932.
Karg-Elert states this about his Sonata Appassionata:
“A clear recognition of the harmonic functions is the chief essential needed by the flautist to solve the given technical problems, if he would avoid leaping shortsightedly from one note to the next. The modern orchestral composer never considers the “convenient technique,” but, where needed, his desire for expression creates a new technique which often presents the most difficult problem to the instrumentalists. Thus it is not only the virtuosi, but above all the composers have extended and are still extending the language of the instruments… [the composer] has in mind only the individual effect produced by the tone-quality of the instrument. And unfortunately, these requirements are often not compatible with the physical structure of the instrument. These Caprices are therefore meant to be a synthesis of all the possible progressive technique demanded by the character and construction of the modern flute, above all the unparalleled ‘Boehm flute;’ and it was far from my intention to write work that “lies easily in the fingers.” On the contrary, the student must learn what does not lie easily.”