Friday, 2 October 2009

Fernando Germani playing organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach from Alkmaar

Even though I try to present a variety of different organists, the field of historical organ recordings often has its own life, where recordings surface and disappear. Fernando Germani recorded a great deal of music, and his recordings were released in quite big numbers and were well distributed worldwide due to his “big name” in the recording industry. In retrospect it’s therefore quite easy to aquire his recordings. That is why I am able to present the fourth release with him. This time it’s one of the LPs from his legendary recordings at the fabulous Schnitger organ in Alkmaar, Holland.

Fernando Germanis organ playing is always great to listen to, but I would especially recommend his version of the Passacaglia, which in my opinion is one of the best ever to be put on record. It has the rythmical intensity and big lines typical for Germani coupled with a really fine sense for registrations.

Some technical details; I could not find the exact release date and year for this recording, and I know it is around 1959, where the public domain area ends, so if anyone has a legal problem with this release, please let me know at once and I’ll remove it immediately! Since this organ is of great historical significance, I’ve included excerpts from the backside of the LP cover with the disposition and some background history in German.

Again a big thanks to Claus Byrith for providing this recording.

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Disposition of the organ

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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Anton Nowakowski playing organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach

Anton Nowakowski (1897-1968), the master pupil of Straube and Fritz Heitman (who were friends of Max Reger) is one of the outstanding German organists. Born in Danzig in 1897, he became famous both as a teacher at the German Academy of Music in Prague and the Essen Folkwang school and as an organ soloist. In addition, thanks to the encouragement from Wilhelm Furtwängler, he achieved considerable fame in Danzig and Berlin as an opera conductor. Anton Nowakowski died in 1968.

These recordings were released on several LP’s over a span of some years. I’ve located some rather different reviews of these recordings, and chosen the earliest review from The Gramophone, July 1955:

“Nowakowski is a new name to me; and I do not recall having heard the Danish instrument on which he plays so skillfully. It has brightness and clarity, with a remarkably well-balanced ensemble and a fascinating array of colour. The mixtures are especially satisfactory, and add top to the tuttis without overpowering them, which rarely happens in not-so-well-voiced instruments.

The E minor Prelude and Fugue is given a flowing though never flabby performance.
Nowakowski’s rhythm is well-nigh impeccable, and this great quality stands him in good stead with the Fantasia in G and the Passacaglia and Fugue. The bell-like sounds in the opening of the former work heighten the contrasts when the full organ is used for the solemn and splendid peporation; and the Passacaglia and Fugue has a drive and power that remind me of Geraint Jones’s performance on the organ at Steinkirchen, and only available now on 78’s. As a first LP recording, this one by Nowakowski should long stand unrivalled. D. S.”
(from The Gramophone, July 1955)

Even though he was a succesful and much sought after teacher and many organists of the next generation had studied with him, it was difficult finding anything about him. Anders Riber told me that his predecessor at Aarhus Cathedral Georg Fjelrad (1901-1979 - a comtemporary of Nowakowski) had met Nowakowski and Fjeldrad described him as friendly and obliging.

Again it’s very clear that even though his taste and style were rooted in the “Orgelbewegung”, hence the choice of instrument for this recording and not least the registration, his concept of the music and organ playing is bold and deeply romantic.

I would again like to send thanks to Anders Riber for providing this recording.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Fritz Heitmann playing excerpts from J. S. Bach “Kunst der Fuge”

This is the second, but hopefully not the last, release with Fritz Heitmann. On May 19th in 1950 Fritz Heitmann recorded parts of J. S. Bach’s Kunst der Fuge in the Gruft-Kapelle in the Berliner Dom. This recording was afterwards released on an LP on the German Telefunken label.

Again we are faced with a impressive display of organ playing. This recording was made in just one day, and that required quite an amount of work and technical precision in a time when cutting and splicing was still very limited.

The cathedral was heavily damaged in 1944, and among other things the entire dome was destroyed. A temporary roof was set up in 1953 and until then the cathedral was unusable. Church services and other activities were held in the crypt under the cathedral. Historically speaking this recording must have been very emotional. It was recorded in 1950, so it was made when the cathedral was still in a terrible condition with much damage due to weather and vandalism.
I’m not sure, but as I read it on the Berliner Dom website, it looks like the organ used in the recording was an Alexander Schuke organ built in 1946 just after the war, but please help me with details.

I would like to thank former cathedral organist in Aarhus (DK), Anders Riber who has made this transfer from the original LP from his own huge collection. I’m sure this is not the last transfer coming from him. Also thanks to Anders Riber for tracking down a picture of Mr. Heitmann.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Fernando Germani from Westminster Cathedral and All Souls Church, London

This is the third release with Fernando Germani. Now it’s time for the famous recordings from Westminster Cathedral done during the period from 1947-53. Thanks to Claus Byrith I’ve been able to access the catalogue of the HMV Plum Label “C” Series where all Germani's recordings were released. This catalogue gives us among many things the exact dates and places of the recordings. These informations showed an interesting thing; the Dorian Toccata was not recorded in Westminster, as I first thought, but in All Soul's Church on Langham Place in London. This church and the organ were damaged in 1940 during the war, and the organ was dismantled. It was then rebuilt in 1951. Acccording to the HMV catalogue Fernando Germani recorded the Dorian Toccata (from this release) and the Mozart F-minor Fantasia on the newly installed organ in 1952.

Furthermore the catalogue shows that Germani also recorded the C minor Passacaglia of Bach, the Nöel X by Daquin and “Tu es Petrus” by Henri Mulet. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find these recordings, so if anyone has them or can get access to them and send a copy to me, it would be greatly appreciated.

A technical note: Since these recordings were obviously never intended to be spliced together digitally, Claus Byrith and I faced a rather odd but common problem when working with 78rpms. Germani tends to make ritardandos toward the end of each side of a 78rpms side, even though the cuts sometimes had to be made in some quite “unmusical” places in the piece due to the limitations of 4’30 minutes per side. Another even greater problem is that to properly end a side and begin the next side Germani sometimes holds the last chord much too long at the end and on the next side continues from the chord on the next side. This habit made perfect sense when playing the 78rpms, where there had to be a gap in the music anyway because the grammophone had to turn the sides. But when trying to digitally construct a continuously running piece it creates some problems concerning where to cut and paste.

We again encountered some pitch problems, this time in the Bach e-minor and Dorian toccata.

One again, thanks to Michael Gartz for providing the transfers and to Claus Byrith for the audio restoration work. The picture is from

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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Fritz Heitmann playing excerpts from J. S. Bach “Clavierübung Dritter Teil”

Here is another great release from The European Archive (

This time it’s Fritz Heitmann playing excerpts from J. S. Bach “Dritter Teil” at the Arp-Schnitger organ in Eosander Chapel at Charlottenburg Castle in Berlin. One very interesting thing is that this organ was destroyed during the Second World War in 1944, so this is the only sound document of this organ.
I’ve searched for some information on Heitmann and found a little on the German Wiki:

Fritz Heitmann (1891-1953) war ein deutscher Organist.

Erste Ausbildung bei seinem Vater, der ebenfalls Organist war. Dann besuchte Heitmann das Hamburger Konservatorium für Musik und von 1909 - 1911 war er am Leipziger Konservatorium Schüler von Karl Straube, Max Reger und Josef Pembaur. Als Organist von 1912 bis 1914 am Dom in Schleswig tätig, dann von 1918 bis 1932 an der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche und seit 1919 zugleich an der Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, schließlich von 1932 bis zu seinem Tode Domorganist am Berliner Dom.

Zahlreiche Konzertreisen führten ihn durch Europa und die USA.

Ab 1923 war er Orgelprofessor an der Berliner Akademie für Schul- und Kirchenmusik, später lehrte er auch am Stern'schen Konservatorium bzw. der Hochschule für Musik. Seit diesem Jahr leitete er auch die von ihm gegründete Berliner Motettenvereinigung.

Heitmann galt als bedeutender Bach-Interpret. 1938 nahm er für die Telefunkenplatte an der Arp-Schnitger-Orgel des Schlosses Charlottenburg die Deutsche Orgelmesse auf, 1950 spielte er für das gleiche Label eine der ersten Aufnahmen von Bachs Kunst der Fuge ein.

Wie die Charlottenburger Schnitger-Orgel wurde auch die Sauer-Orgel der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche 1943 bei Bombenangriffen zerstört. Es gibt aber zehn Aufnahmen auf Schellackplatten von 1929 und 1930, auf denen der Klang dieser Orgel, gespielt von Fritz Heitmann, festgehalten wurde.
(From Wiki)

As mentioned in the German text, the “Dritter Teil” was recorded in 1938 – more precisely on September 1st – quite a task recording 46 mins of 78rpms in one day! The origin of this release is from a LP released in 1954. The sound is unclear, dark and distant. It might be due to the transfer from the 78rpms to the LP done back in 1954 or the condition of the LP used for the digital transfer.
I’ve found a another transfer of the “Duetto” done probably from the original 78rpms, which is much more clear and precise. I’ve located the original 78rpms in the Danish State Library, and will try to see what condition these are in and maybe have them transferred to replace these.
Here you can find some interesting photos, information and the transfer of “Duetto”:

I could’t find any picture of Fritz Heitmann, so I used a picture of the façade of the organ in the chapel taken from the website above.

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Edouard Mignan, Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux

Now it’s time for the next release with the recordings of Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux in Saint Mark’s Church, London. However, first we start with a recording with Edouard Mignan playing the first movement of Mendelssohns 6th sonata.

Edouard Mignan (1884-1969) was a French organist and composer. He was born in Orléans and 14 years old he became the organist of église Saint Paterne. He studied organ in Paris with Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne and won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1912. He was organist at Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin from 1917 to 1935. He succeeded Henri Dallier as organist of la Madeleine in 1935 and held that post until 1962.
(From Wiki)

Edouard Mignan was succeded by Jeanne Demessieux in La Madeleine.
The technical quality of this recording is very poor and everything sounds very chaotic and distant. Also there were some difficulties transferring the second 78rpm side, so there is a big pitch problem there. I’ll try to get it fixed.

I know I’ve published the exact same recording of the Toccata and fugue in d with Jeanne Demessieux, but I think this transfer is a little bit better in quality, maybe due to the condition of the original 78rpm.

This release concludes with the two remaining Chorales by Franck with Marcel Dupré at the keyboard - see the first release with Dupré for the a-minor Chorale.

Once more a big thanks to Michael Gartz for the transfers and to Claus Byrith for the CEDAR and digital splicing.

(UPDATE: Thanks to organist Anders Riber, who has kindly provided the picture of Edouard Mignan)

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Fernando Germani from Saint Ignazio, Rome (part 2)

Now it’s time for the second release with Fernando Germani at the organ in Saint Ignazio in Rome. These recordings are interesting in many ways. First of all they again show Germani as one of the greatest organists. His beautifully formed musical lines coupled with a fine sense of touch and a great technical ability is a general thread in all his performances. I recommend listening to all of the recordings, but especially the Schumann, his own arrangement of the Frescobaldi Toccata, and Liszt's BACH are simply amazing.

Concerning the arrangement of the Frescobaldi Toccata, the sheet music can be found at The Petrucci Library (

Collecting information about these old recordings is often very difficult, since the documentation on the records themselves are often very limited. Michael Gartz and I weren’t able to find the composer for the “In dulci jubilo” and I couldn't find any information on track 8 whatsoever. So if you have any information, please help me with these two recordings.

Again great thanks to Michael Gartz for providing these recordings and to Claus Byrith for editing and cleaning.
(UPDATE: Thanks to Kristian Krogsøe and "dan" for helping me with the missing composers)

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

André Marchal playing Johann Sebastian Bach in St. Eustache, Paris

André Marchal (1894-1980)

With great thanks to The European Archive ( I’ve got permission to use their collection of public domain organ recordings. I haven’t altered anything beside cutting the sound into tracks and renaming them.
The first item from EA is an LP released in France around 1945-1950 with André Marchal playing works by Johann Sebastian Bach in his church Saint Eustache in Paris.

André Marchal (1894-1980) was a French organist and organ teacher. He was one of the great initiators of the organ revival in France.
Marchal was born blind. He studied the organ under Eugène Gigout at the Paris Conservatoire where in 1913 he won their premier prix. He also won the prix d' excellence for fugue and counterpoint in Caussade's class (his counterpoint teacher) in 1917.
He taught organ at Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris, and was titular organist of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1915-1945) and Saint-Eustache (1945-1963), his resignation in 1963 being brought about over a conflict over the correct organ builder to be hired to restore Saint-Eustache's instrument.
He was an unparalleled improviser and was even recognized as such by Fauré. Among his students were many brilliant musicians like Louis Thiry or Jean-Pierre Leguay, one of four titulaires des grands orgue of Notre-Dame de Paris.
(From Wikipedia)

As mentioned in the Wiki-text Marchal was one of the key figures of the French “Orgelbewegung”. His ideas were partly shaped by his teacher Eugene Gigout, who had already begun to teach and point his students toward these new ideas, so along with fellow organists like Joseph Bonnet they were part of the generation of musicians who had a growing interest in the classical and baroque music and organ building. His advocacy of the neoclassical style was to shape the future generation(s) of organ playing.

It’s quite interesting though, that his playing heavily relies on the romantic way of organ playing, with the legato style, long melodic lines and the use of register crecscendo and extensive use of the swell box. Recorded somewhere between 1945-1950, we are able to hear the old Ducroquet organ of Saint Eustache.

The LP used for this transfer is, as far I can see, an American release of the French recording original done for the label Ducretet. Further information about André Marchal and the complete discography can be found here:

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Selected recordings with Fernando Germani

Fernando Germani, 1906 – 1998.

Fernando Germani was an Italian organist. He studied in Rome, and at age eight he started taking lessons in composition from Resphigi who headed Germani toward the organ. In 1921 he began a career as organist. He has taught in Siena and Rome and played widely in the USA. He gave Bach's complete organ works for the first time in Italy in 1945, repeating them several times, and was first organist at St Peter's, Rome, 1948-59. Spanning a career of almost seventy-five years, Germani also was a celebrated teacher in Italy. He died in 1998.
Here is a funny story; Pageant by Leo Sowerby was written in 1931, at the request of Germani. Germani had played Sowerby's Medieval Poem on his first concert in the United States, under the composer's baton. The Italian possessed a phenomenal pedal technique, and Sowerby's Pageant was very obviously intended as a direct challenge. In form it is a set of ingenious variations on a rather perfunctory theme, presented after a bravura introduction for pedals alone. Germani's response after receiving the score is legendary: "Now write for me something difficult!"

There are some recordings of Germani from the 1960s and 70s when his technical command was more or less in decline, but these recordings which are about 20 to 30 years older show an organist in his prime. Along with Sittard’s Liszt recording, Germani’s recording is one of the earliest preserved interpretations of the organ music by Liszt.
One interesting thing is his version of the Prelude and Fugue Eb. Due to the time limitations in the 78rpm-era where the musicians had to record approximately 4:30 min on each side in one take with no possibilities of cutting, Germani chose to record the Prelude which in his version lasts 7:30 min on two sides, but as the fugue only lasts 6:15 one of the sides would be half empty, so he chose to put the “Ich ruf zu dir”-chorale in between the Prelude and Fugue - quite possibly as an “hommage” to the complete “Clavierübung III”.

The first recordings were made in The Wanamaker Auditorium in New York (not the famous Wanamaker Store organ but still quite a powerful one). Here is a link with a little background:

The rest is recorded in Saint Ignazio i Rome. I can’t find anything on the organ in that church, but the church itself in known for housing the great Frescoes Andrea Pozzo in the nave ceiling
Take a look here:'Ignazio

The recordings from New York was recorded for RCA-Victor but I’m not sure about the Italian recordings. They’ve might been recorded for some kind of Vatican label? If any of you know the anything about these recordings, please let me know. I also don’t know the recording dates, but my guess is, that the Victor recordings were made after 1931, after his first tour the USA, and the Italian recordings made after he was appointed organist in St. Peters in 1948.

I will be posting some more recordings by Germani later this month, among them the recordings he made in Westminster in London.

I’m planning on posting some articles about how music was recorded back in the 78rpm era, what problems the musicians and technicians faced and how they often solved the problems rather ingeniously.

Again great thanks to Michael Gartz for providing these recordings and to Claus Byrith for post transfer editing, cutting and CEDAR-prosessing.

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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Selected recordings with Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux

Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux hardly need any introduction. They were some of the most prominent exponents of the French organ style and two of the most celebrated performers.

Anyway, here is a little biography from Wikipedia:

Marcel Dupré, May 3, 1886 – May 30, 1971
Marcel Dupré was born in Rouen. Born into a musical family. Dupré entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, where he studied with Louis Diémer and Lazare Lévy (piano), Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne (organ), and Charles-Marie Widor (composition). In 1926, he was appointed professor of organ performance and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire, a position he held until 1954. In 1934, Dupré succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as titular organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until his death in 1971.
(Partly from Wikipedia)

These recordings were recorded for the British Decca Records in the 1940s. They were recorded in Saint Mark Church in North Audley Street in London on an organ which was maybe not ideally suited for the french repertoire.
As a little bonus feature, I’ve put two different transfers of the Franck Choral, one transfer made by Michael Gartz and the other by Claus Byrith. The sounds are quite different, and I couln’t decide which was to prefer.

Jeanne Marie-Madeleine Demessieux, February 13, 1921 – November 11, 1968
Jeanne Demessieux was born in Montpellier. In 1933 Jeanne Demessieux was enrolled as a student at the Paris Conservatory; studying piano with Simon Riera and Magda Tagliaferro, harmony with Jean Gallon, counterpoint and fugue with Noël Gallon, and composition with Henri Büsser. She was also appointed titular organist at St. Esprit in Paris in 1933, a post she held for 29 years. Between 1936 and 1939 she studied organ privately with Marcel Dupré, whose organ class at the Conservatory she joined in 1939. Her debut in 1946 was compared to those of Horowitz, Menuhin, and Gieseking; Dupré himself said “You have shown us this evening that we are in the presence of a phenomenon equal to the youth of Bach or Mozart . . .” Of Paris’s finest organists present—including Langlais, Litaize, Grünenwald and Falcinelli—Duruflé more humorously (but no less seriously) declared “Next to Jeanne Demessieux, the rest of us play the pedals like elephants!”
In 1962, Jeanne Demessieux was appointed titular organist at La Madeleine in Paris.
After several months of illness, Jeanne Demessieux died on November 11, 1968, due to cancer, in her Parisian apartment.
(This part of the text partly from Wikipedia and
Jeanne Demessieux recorded almost entirely for Decca Records and the two recordings presented here were some of her first made in 1947. The recordings were like the Dupré recordings recorded in Saint Mark Church in London. The Dutch Festivo Label has reissued many of her recordings in four volumes.

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Saturday, 4 April 2009

Selected concerto recordings with Walther Fischer and Kurt Grosse

I know this release is sort of incomplete. I’ve been trying find some biographical information concerning Walther Fischer, but havn’t been able to find any even though he was cathedral organist at Berliner Dom and one of the leading figures of the German late romantic school.So please help me out here. If any of you have some information and/or pictures please send it to me. Furthermore it would be very nice if someone has any informantion regarding when the Rheinberger and Händel concertos were recorded, on which organ and with whom.

It was almost as diffucult finding something on Kurt Grosse, but I managed to find a little;
“Kurt Grosse was a Berliner through and through. Born there in 1890, educated there, worked there and, as far as we know, died there. He was a student at the “Royal Berlin School of Music” from 1914-19, worked as organist at the Garrison church in Spandau and after 1920 moved across as organist and choirmaster to the Friedrich-Werder church”.
(This excerpt is from an excellent article on the Welte Mignon Organ: )

I’ve just learned that Kurt Grosse recorded some other pieces on the organ at Alte Garnisonkirche where he was organist, so the two movement from the Bossi Concerto might also be recorded here as well. But if you have any informations about Kurt Grosse or the recordings please let me know.
Finally I would like to have the name of the two movements of the Bossi Concerto, if anyone can help here. I haven’t been able to find anything on this Concerto.

These recordings show that although they may not have been virtuoso players as Alfred Sittard, both organists were still very skilled musicians. I would like to emphasize Walther’s Rheinberger which has a real German “Gravität”-character, and Grosse’s Bossi which is a very finely composed organ concerto, and I wonder why this concerto isn’t played (or recorded) more? Grosse plays with a fine sense of drama and renders the organ solo part superbly.

It’s a wonder why two great organists have gone so much in neglect. I hope this release can shed a little light over them, and please help me with more information.

Again great thanks to Michael Gartz for providing these recordings and to Claus Byrith for post transfer editing, cutting and CEDAR-prosessing.

UPDATE: I was finally able to track down the name of the two movement from the Bossi Concerto. Thanks to organist Federico Savio!

UPDATE (Sep. 10th 2009):
Thanks to Rob Kruijt I'm now able to present some more biographical information on Walther Fischer.

Some information about Walter Fischer (1872-1931) is to be found in:
Max Reger Briefe zwischen der Arbeit 1956.
Reger wrote letters to Fischer during the years 1902-1914.
Fischer was an admirer of Reger and played each Thursday a concert, almost always with a piece of Reger.
He was organist in Berlin:
1903-1910 Garnisonskirche
1910-1917 Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
1917-1931 Berliner Dom

Friday, 27 March 2009

The International Historical Organ Recording Collection on Facebook

I've created a group on the network Facebook, where I'll encourage everyone interested in this blog to join. There I'll be posting news and updates.

So please look up "The International Historical Organ Recording Collection" and join the group.

Best regards, Lars.

Alfred Sittard - Selected recordings from 1928-38

Alfred Sittard was born in Stuttgart in 1878. He studied in Cologne under F. W. Franke and became organist at Dresden Kreuzkirche in 1903, then in 1912 organist at the Michaeliskirche in Hamburg. In 1925 he became professor of organ studies at Universität der Künste in Berlin, where he died in 1942. In his lifetime he was considered one of the foremost organ virtuosos in Germany, which these recordings clearly show. Due to his influence through his teaching post in Berlin, he is a direct connection to the Berlin Organ School of the late 19th century and early 20th century among others like Max Reger and Karl Straube.

The solo recordings were recorded from 1928 to 1932. The first six tracks were recorded in Alten Garnisonkirche in Berlin and the others were recorded at the Walcker organ in Michaeliskirche in Hamburg. Alfred Sittard was involved in the construction of this 163 stop organ in 1912.The organ was heavily damaged during the Second World War and in 1962 the organ company Steinmeyer build a completely new organ. These recordings are in that way also historical documents preserving the sound of this instrument.

The Händel organ concert was recorded with the Berlin Philharmonics under the young conductor Leopold Ludwig (1908-1979) in 1938, probably somewhere in Berlin, but I haven’t been able to find the location.

These recordings show a great musicianship, excellent sense for drama and a virtuoso technical ability. All the recordings are of the highest musical quality, but worth mentioning is his J. S. Bach “Toccata and fugue in D-minor”, which really shows his dramatic skills, and his F. Liszt “Ad nos” where modern listeners will notice the extreme liberties he takes all over the performance!

A technical note: There are some slight pitch problems in some of the recordings. Eg. in the Liszt-“Ad nos” the two sides of the performance were not played back at the exact same speed, but Claus Byrith is working on the problem.

These recordings have, as far as I know, never been issued on another medium than the original 78rpms, so this is an unique chance to hear the almost forgotten art of the great German virtuoso organist Alfred Sittard.

Great thanks to Michael Gartz for providing these recordings and to Claus Byrith for post transfer editing, cutting and cleaning using the CEDAR-technology.
Last note: It was quite a detective work to piece this small biography together through the Internet, so if anyone has more information, pictures, recordings (!) of him please send it to me.

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Monday, 2 March 2009

Selected recordings of Niels Otto Raasted from the Cathedral of Copenhagen, Vor Frue Church 1941-1950.

Cathedral Organist Niels Otto Raasted might need a little introduction to non-Danish organists.

The danish organist Niels Otto Raasted (1888-1966) was one of the leading – if controversial – church musicians of his time. After studies in Leipzig with Karl Straube and Max Reger he was appointed organist at the Church of Our Lady in Odense in 1915-24 and Cathedral Organist in Copenhagen in 1924-58, where he started the tradition of broadcast morning services.
In 1925 he founded the Bach Society, and he was chairman of the composers’ rights organization KODA in 1937-64. He was moreover an active concert organist and organ teacher. As a composer he kept up a high output of works throughout his life, totaling 116 opus numbers, especially organ works (six sonatas in 1917-48), choral music (Mass 1924), hymn tunes, chamber music and orchestral works (three symphonies).
In his own lifetime his music was performed frequently, especially in Denmark and Germany. The early works were romantic in style, influenced by his studies with Max Reger. From the mid-1920s one hears the influence of Carl Nielsen and a certain adaptation to the current sacred music climate in Denmark, which was dominated by Thomas Laub. With his pragmatic, non-ideological attitude to sacred music, however, he was never truly accepted by the pace-setting sacred music circles, and after his death his music was to a great extent forgotten.
(This text is from:

These recordings were made in the period 1941-50 at the cathedral in Copenhagen (Vor Frue Kirke). One might say that his baroque playing is a little “old fashioned” compared to todays ideals. Some have even used the word “boring”, but his melodic lines are very beautiful and well proportioned, and you can hear that he was a brilliant musician with a well founded technical ability. Worth mentioning in this collection is his interpretation of “Sørgemarch ved Torvaldsens bisættelse” (“March at Torvaldsens funeral”) and the “Pastorale, koral og fuga”, op. 87.

A very big thanks to Claus Byrith for his exemplary work with the transfers, restoring and cleaning these recordings.
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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The complete recordings of Charles Tournemire from Saint Clotilde, Paris 1930-31.

These recordings hardly need any introduction to organists. They consist of some works by Cesar Franck, two movements from his L’Orgue Mystique, and of course his legendary five improvisations which Maurice Duruflé transcribed and published in 1958.
He was a student of Cesar Franck and was the organist of Saint Clotilde from 1898 succeding Gabriel Pierné until his death in 1939. Though his skills as an interpreter are well preserved here, his greatest ability was to improvise.

Until the server space is up and running at the Royal Academy of Aarhus, I have chosen to store the files on They should be quite easy to download and with reasonable speed also.

These recordings have kindly been provided by Michael Gartz - a great thanks to him!

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Welcome to The International Historical Organ Recording Collection.

Here you will find historic organ recordings transferred from 78rpms and early LPs. They are all recorded before 1959, which makes them public domain and therefore legally publishable. The transfers are privately made by the owners of the original sources, so these recordings are not digital copies from any commercial reissues.

The commercial interest and profits in reissuing historic organ recordings are low, and therefore a lot of materials have never been transferred to a more up to date medium.

Inspired by the work by Neal Kurz on his very interesting blogsite, and with help from Michael Gartz who holds a huge collection of historic recordings, the sound technician, record collector and historian Claus Byrith, and in collaboration with The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark, I will over time try to publish as many important historical organ recordings as possible.

Currently I’m preparing some 78rpm recordings with the young Marcel Dupré recorded in London in 1928, recordings with Jeanne Demessiuex, Fernando Germani, Alfred Sittard, Kurt Grosse, Walter Fisher and the Danish cathedral organist Niels Otto Raasted. The first release however will be the legendary recordings of Charles Tournemire from 1930-31.

I will try to attach as much historical information concerning the matrix number of the transferred 78s, the recording year and label, but I encourage everyone who visits this site to contribute with knowledge, biographical information, corrections and/or with new recordings. Send me a transfer of the source or send me the source itself and I will have it transferred and sent back again.

If, against my best efforts, there are copyright violations of any kind, please let me know and I will remove the items immediately.

The recordings are available as high definition MP3 files and compressed with RAR. Perhaps over time I’ll make the recordings available as lossless FLAC or APE files, but until now the MP3 files will do the job quite fine.

This is the chance to actually hear these historical recordings, many which are almost legendary and examples of musicianship of the highest order.

Feel free to come back and check for updates. I wish you a good luck with the journey into the world of historical organ recordings.

Lars Nørremark