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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