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.
Having returned to Leipzig, he started devoting himself to composition, primarily for the piano.
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.
"Noël" is found in Book Two of the composer's Op. 142. It is the tenth of twelve miniatures, and was published by Paxton & Co. Ltd. in 1932.
A miniature but rich piece, featuring the harmonic colors and melodic lines found in Karg-Elert's music.
The work is based upon the famous tune, "Sicilian Mariners". It is traditionally used for the Roman Catholic Marian hymn "O Sanctissima." According to tradition, Sicilian seamen ended each day on their ships by singing this hymn in unison. The tune probably traveled from Italy to Germany to England, where The European Magazine and London Review first published it in 1792. The tune was associated with the German Christmas carol "O du Frohliche, O du Selige."
The score and photos of Sigfrid Karg-Elert are attached below.
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