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Unique recordings with Helmut Walcha and Günther Ramin

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I am proud to be able to present three very unique organ recordings. Thanks to a generous contribution from Claudia Zachariassen, the owner of the Marcussen organ building firm, I can present two live recordings with Helmut Walcha and Günter Ramin. They were recorded on two Marcussen organs: at the concert hall at the Danish "Statsradiofonien" (Danish Broadcasting Corporation, on its former location in Copenhagen) May 8th 1953 with Helmut Walcha playing, and the other during the inauguration concert of the organ in Göteborg concert hall April 28th 1937 with Günther Ramin. They were cut on acetate discs most likely from a radio transmission and presented to the former owner of Marcussen Sybrand Zachariassen (1900-1960), so they most likely only exist in this exact copy.
The third recording is a contribution from David C. Kelzenberg (Iowa, USA). It is Helmut Walcha playing the “Ricercar á 6” from “Das Musichalishes Opfer” by J. S. Bach. This recording was done privately by He…

Kevin Bowyer playing K. S. Sorabji - Organ Symphony No. 1

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Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji – Organ Symphony No. 1 (1922/23) “For those interested in such matters, Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was born in Chingford, Essex, England on 14 August 1892; his father was a Zoroastrian Parsi civil engineer and his mother English (for a long time, until the work of Sean Vaughan Owen, she was reputed to be part Sicilian, part Spanish). He spent most of his life in England. From his early ’teens he developed an insatiable appetite for the latest developments in contemporary European and Russian music and went to great lengths to obtain the latest scores of such composers as Mahler, Debussy, Schönberg, Skryabin, Rakhmaninov and others at a time and in a country where almost all such music was largely unknown and unrecognized. Of an independent and uniquely curious nature, it is perhaps unsurprising given the pre-War English environment that his education, both general and musical, was mostly private.For a composer as prolific as he was soon to become, he was an u…

Robert Noehren playing works by Johann Sebastian Bach

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Robert Noehren (1910-2002) was an influential American organist with a broad interest in organ building, performance practice and writing.

He was named “International Performer of the Year 1978” by The American Guild of Organists, and in that connection I’ve found this short biography (http://216.137.149.180/IPYA/NoehrenR.html):

“Robert Noehren (December 16, 1910 – August 4, 2002) enjoyed a long and distinguished career as international recitalist, recording artist, scholar, author, and teacher. He was for many years University Organist and Head of the Organ Department at the University of Michigan. His discography numbers over 40 recordings, from earlier vinyl LPs to a number of CDs made late in his career. Among his many honors were the French Grand Prix du Disque for his recording of the Bach Trio Sonatas. His interest in historical organ building led to numerous trips to France, Germany, and Holland, and the establishment of his own organ building company, where he designed and buil…

Feike Asma & Hans Vollenweider playing works by J. S. Bach and F.Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

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I’m now able to present two new organists to IHORC, the Dutch organist Feike Asma (1912-1984) and the Swiss organist Hans Vollenweider (1918-1993).

"Forever closely associated with the organ of the Great Church of Maassluis (near Rotterdam) is the name of Feike Asma. In 1927, Asma succeeded his father as organist of the Reformed Church of Den Helder. He played the organ of the Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden from 1933 to 1943, afterward moving to the historical organ of the Lutherian Church in The Hague. Asma served as organist here for a period of 22 years, gracing the services and giving many recitals. In 1965, Asma became organist at Maassluis until his death in 1984, again playing for services and in numerous recitals. In the notes to the last recording issued during his life, Mr Jan Quintus Zwart characterised Osma in these words:
"Over half a century, organ virtuoso Feike Asma has achieved his own place among Dutch organists. While giving so many recitals, he was assured of…

Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen part 3

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This is the third and penultimate release with Olivier Messiaen playing his own works for now. The last works missing is his “Messe de la Pentecôte” and his “Livre d’Orgue”. Oliver Messiaen also recorded the “Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité”, but since it was composed in 1969 it was from obvious reasons not included in the 1956 recording sessions. He recorded the “Méditations” in 1972, but we’ll have to wait until 2022 for a public domain release of that.
I’ve already covered many sides of the circumstances connected with these recordings, so I’ll again let Timothy Tikker speak. This time it's concerning the interpretations by Olivier Messiaen, and also draw attention to his excellent article from The American Organist (Nov 2008):
“Identifying Messiaen as a romantic performer may seem surprising, when so many think of him as the ultra-modernist who, for example, did so much to introduce total serialism in composition. And yet, he admitted plainly: "I'm not…

Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen part 2

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The second part of the complete Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen consists of Apparition de l’Èglise éternelle and Les Corps Glorieux.
I discussed the technical and historical details in the first release, so I’ll not go into these details again.
As mentioned in the first release, I’m very reluctant in naming the definitive renditions of any works, but Messiaens own interpretation of the Apparition is simply amazing. His tempo is extremely slow but never dragging and his overall musical perception of the piece is so incredible grand.
In fact looking over just a few other recordings of this piece puts Messiaens version as the slowest:
Olivier Messiaen (1956) 10:05, Latry (rec. 2000) 9:45, Rudolf Innig (1996) 9:16, Jennifer Bate (1982) 10:00, Susan Landale (1986) 7:36, Thomas Trotter (1993) 9:48, Louis Thiry (1972) 8:01.

The overall timing of a piece doesn’t directly tell anything about the actual tempo (or tempi) in a piece. There are many other factors in play, just listen to the ve…

Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen part 1

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Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

Olivier Messiaen hardly needs any introduction at all. He was one of the most influential composers of the 20th century and organist at Trinité in Paris for 61 years! Here is a little excerpt from Wikipedia anyway:
“Olivier Messiaen; December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, widely regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism. He said he perceived colours when he heard certain musical chords, particularly those built from his modes (a phenomenon known as synaesthesia); combinations of these colours, he said, were…