Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) was born Siegfried Theodor Karg in Oberndorf am Neckar, Germany, the youngest of twelve children. The family finally settled in Leipzig in 1882, where he received his first musical training and private piano instruction. At a gathering of composers in Leipzig, he presented his first attempts at composition to the composer Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek, who arranged a three-year tuition-free scholarship at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied with Jadassohn, Reinecke, Reisenauer and Teichmüller.
From August 1901 to September 1902 he worked as a piano teacher in Magdeburg. It was during this period that he changed his name to Sigfrid Karg-Elert, adding a variant of his mother's maiden name to his surname, and adopting the Swedish spelling of his first name.
Having returned to Leipzig, he started devoting himself to composition, primarily for the piano (encouraged by Edvard Grieg, whom he greatly admired). He soon began writing of the harmonium, and his first original organ works (1909) were the, 66 Chorale Improvisations, Op. 65.
Shunned and neglected in Germany, he accepted an invitation for an organ concert tour of America in the spring of 1932. The tour proved to be a disastrous mistake. He was suffering from the diabetes which would soon kill him, and his limited powers as an organist compared unfavorably to the virtuoso standard of organ performance to which American audiences had grown accustomed.
After his return to Leipzig, his health started deteriorating rapidly. He died there in April 1933, only 55 years old.
"Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" comes from "Zwanzig Prae- und Postludium," Op. 78, and dating from 1912.
The well-known hymn deals with "sleepers waking," and I assure you that after hearing this, NOBODY could possibly still be asleep - as you'll immediately understand!
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Karg-Elert and of the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin at Esztergom, Hungary.