Classical Music classical CDs reviewed New CD reviews every day latest Classical CD releases Buy your CDs of the classics here

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Works for Harmonium, Volume 4.
Renaissance, Op. 57. Sicilienne, W10. 33 Portraits, Op. 101. Graduale, W7a. Einsames Vogelein. Zwei Miniaturen. Zwei Sensibilismen. Zwei Expressionismen.

Johannes Matthias Michel (harmonium d'art).
CPO 999 631-2 [DDD] [two discs, 129'28]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

This is, methinks, a release for a very specialised audience. The instrument used, the harmonium d'art (also known as the Kunstharmonium) was popular at the turn of the century, and between 1903 and 1915 Karg-Elert wrote in excess of one hundred pieces for it, including a full-blown Sonata (1905).

The 33 Portraits (in two books) make up the vast majority of the playing time here. This piece constitutes a virtuoso study in pastiche and moves chronologically from the devotional Requiem aeternam (a la Palestrina) and a jaunty Vilanella (in the style of Lassus), through a well-contrasted threesome of Gluck (Overture) Haydn (Rondo) and Mozart (Fantasia) before passing into the Romantic period culminating in Wagner (predictably, the longest movement) and the shortest slow movement Bruckner never wrote (3 minutes 17 seconds). On, then, to representations of the early twentieth century and the distinctly unmystic (though not for want of trying) Scriabin, a not particularly recognisable Debussy and the final pièce de résistence, Subtile Düfter der Wunderblume. True to the spirit of one who enjoys playing games, this last is subtitled 'Onirot di Alle-Ir-Bag'. Not Arabic (or even some turn of the century occultist jargon), but the name of its dedicatee, just spelt backwards. It's all very sweet the first time round, although even then the sheer length is daunting. Interesting, also, to hear pastiches of composers not so well known today (MacDowell and Sinding get a movement each). It has to be said, though, that there is a surprisingly large array of sound combinations to be gleaned from the harmonium d'art, and they are used to good effect here.

In the spirit of all this gamery, the final pieces after the Portraits were published under pseudonyms: Baptiste Karg, Teo von Oberndorff, Wolfgang Ey, Roderich Bergk and Dr Ottmar Bergk. The twittering of Einsames Vögelein ('Oberndorff') is delicious and under the umbrella of anonymity, the Zwei Expressionismen demonstrate Karg-Elert's more experimental side.

The Portraits are preceded by Renaissance, Op. 57 (perhaps not the most gripping start to the set, and perhaps better not to think too much of funeral parlours) and the inconsequential and forgettable Sicilienne.

An interesting couple of hours' listening, but not to be taken in one go. Michel is a committed interpreter.


Colin Clarke



Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index