Karg-Elert Newsletter on A Dream of Germany

From Karg-Elert Newsletter January 2015

It will be remembered that it was Professor David Owen Norris who first recorded Karg-Elert’s transcription of Elgar’s First Symphony in 1988, followed by the long awaited recording of Falstaff in 2009 from the unpublished MS in the British Library, also made by David Owen Norris. To hear a live performance of this remarkable work – a tour de force of the arranger’s art – was a riveting experience at the hands of such a masterly player, who tackled its fiendish technical difficulties with remarkable insight and conviction. Elgar’s large orchestral palette might seem not to transfer well to the keyboard, but such was the arranger’s understanding of the piano’s capabilities that this extensive work possessed a freshness all its own in the authoritative reading given by David Owen Norris, when one could only marvel at the achievements both of arranger and performer.

There was an expectant buzz before the performance of Karg-Elert’s Cello Sonata in the last of the day’s concerts. Here, another formidable pianistic challenge awaited David Owen Norris, who had tirelessly provided accompaniments throughout the day’s programme. He was now joined by the distinguished cellist Dr Joseph Spooner, whose rapport with the accompanist made for a totally integrated performance, where the complexities of the cello and piano parts are shared equally in exploiting, for instance, the opening con brio as well as its subsequent lyrical themes. The composer’s characteristic harmonic richness was further demonstrated in the middle movement’s adagissimo, presenting much delicate interplay between the two instruments, leading into a huge climax before the hushed ending for cello pizzicato, in the best Romantic tradition. The concluding allegro burlesco introduced a piano part of shimmering intensity for further eloquent dialogue between the two instruments, transformed into vigorous contrapuntal exchanges, as tension increased towards the rhapsodic conclusion, greeted with well merited and pronged applause. Our grateful thanks to Joseph Spooner and David Owen Norris for the opportunity to hear this large scale work performed with such outstanding commitment.

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