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Marche Triomphale

Marche Triomphale

Karg-Elert, Sigfrid

Arr. Olson, Gary


  • Ensemble: Brass Quintet and Organ
  • Genre: Classical
  • Grade: 4
  • Duration: 4.0 minutes
  • Catalog Number: DB-CAN0104

Sigfrid Karg was born in Oberndorf (Swabia) on November 21, 1877. His father, a Roman Catholic newspaper editor, died shortly following Sigfrid's birth. His Protestant mother managed to support the family, but only in abject poverty. Early musical education was sporadic, fragmented, and mostly self- acquired. Although he left home as a performer at an early age, playing a wind instrument in a traveling band, inspiration by Edvard Grieg soon turned his interests to composition. His abilities in this area attracted attention and he was awarded a free place in the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied under Reinecke, Jadassohn, and Max Reger. Upon graduation, he taught briefly at the Magdeburg Conservatory and managed to eke out a modest living as a performer and composer. To enhance the audience appeal of his name, he changed it from Karg, meaning coffin, to Karg-Elert (Elert was his mother's maiden name).

Upon the death of Max Reger in 1916, he was appointed Professor of Composition, the primary professorship at Leipzig. The appointment was not formalized, however, until 1919. Life at the conservatory was not easy. Karg-Elert hated the formalities and false dignities which characterized faculty life. Clownish behavior and outbursts of bad temper won him few friends. In his latter years, his health began to fail and he died in Leipzig on April 9, 1933 after an unsuccessful American recital tour.

Although Karg-Elert's early compositions were for the Kunstharmonium (analagous to the modern reed organ and promoted by one of his publishers), it was in organ composition that he found his medium. His music was well entrenched in the style of the German Romantic, even though he lived well into the twentieth century. His writing was similar in many ways to that of Max Reger whom he succeeded as Professor. He found his inspiration in the compositions of Bach and in the German Reformation Chorale tradition. The Chorale Improvisations (opus 65), for example, from which Marche Triomphale is taken, incorporates most of Bach's harmonic techniques. It is based on Reformation Chorales, and has become a classic of the organ literature. He understood brass instruments as well as the organ, perhaps from his early experiences as an itinerant performer, and used brass effectively to reinforce organ compositions such as Wunderbarer Konig (opus 65 #66) and Chaconne and Fugue Trilogy with Chorale (opus 73). Perhaps this tradition of using brass for emphasis explains why Marche Triomphale is so effective with brass.

On first reading it may not be immediately apparent that this fantasy is based on the familiar chorale tune "Now Thank We All Our God." The chorale tune is made up of the half notes in the first two measures, the quarter notes in the third measure and the first beat of the fourth measure. These notes are reinforced by the organ, allowing the performers to bring out the chorale melody without sounding strained. The accent is seemingly on the wrong beat in the chords beginning on the last beat of measure four, and in other similar places in the piece. This figure is intentional and should be played with emphasis on the first note of each pair rather than on the actual downbeat. The larger phrase structure of the piece must be observed. Those seemingly unrelated four measure segments in the beginning of the piece must be related by the performers to the single phrase whichmakes up the entire first section.The brass players should adopt a firm, sharp, stately style in the first section and a more legato and subdued style in the second. Organ registration should be full but bright with texture adjusted according to the brilliance of sound produced by the brass. Tone quality of the brass must not clash with that of the organ. A good brass ensemble will be successfully matched only by an organ of superior quality. With a superb brass quintet and a fine organ well registered, Marche Triomphale will be breathtaking.

This work is part of our Denver Brass Signature Series.

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