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 These recordings are in that way also historical documents preserving the sound of this instrument.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.

Download detailed playlist

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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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Download detailed playlist

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