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Gustav Merkel.

gustav-merkel.jpgGustav Merkel, who was one of the peers among the composers of organ-music in Germany, was born at Oberoderwitz, Saxony, in 1827. His youthful days were not specially eventful, his musical studies being directed by Julius Otto and the celebrated organist, Dr. Johann Schneider, a resident of Dresden.

Merkel pursued his favorite study of composition with Reissiger and Schumann, the influence of the latter being frequently apparent in his earlier writings. In 1838 he was chosen organist of the Waesenkirche, Dresden, but retained the position only two years, becoming the organist of the Kreuzkirche in 1860, and Court Organist in 1864.

In 1862 he accepted a professorship in the Dresden Conservatorium, and in 1867 he was elected Director of the Singakademie, which position he held until 1873. He died in Dresden, October 30, 1885, at the age of fifty-eight.

Merkel’s printed compositions number nearly two hundred, most of which are for the organ. Foremost among these stand his nine “Organ Sonatas”: opera 30, 42, 80, 115, 118, 137, 140, 178, and 183.

The first sonata, for four hands and double pedal, is the most effective duet ever written for the organ. (There is, by the way, a two-hand arrangement of this sonata by Otto Turk.)

The second sonata in G-minor has been played a great deal in this country and is probably the most popular of the set.

The fifth sonata, in D-minor, contains a very effective fugue, and the slow movement is a gem.

Of his other compositions the best known are the “Weinaehts-pastorale,” opus 56; “Pastorale in G,” opus 103; and the “Adagio in E,” opus 35: three compositions which, while bearing a striking resemblance, are overflowing with legitimate organ-effects.

Of the less-known compositions the following may be mentioned: “Variations on a Theme of Beethoven,” opus 45; “Fantasia and Fugue,” opus 104; “Introduction and Double Fugue,” opus 105; “Concert Satz in E-flat minor,” opus 141; “Fantasia in E-minor” (published by Ditson without opus- number).

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