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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  1. Superb playing and recording! The specs for this organ can be found on the Osiris database. It's a 1933 Tamburini.

  2. About recording: Germani organ recordings are part of a larger 78 rpm classical edition made for the Holy Siege (Vatican) "par privilege special" in early 30' by the rare french label "SEMS -Edition de musique sacrée-". Many sacred works for choral an instrumantal music were pressed as, for example, the sound of St. Peter's bells:
    I was very fortunate, cause a friend of mine, a distinguished old laquers roman collector, made me heard the original Germani rendition of Liszt Prelude an Fugue on BACH directly on his turntable. Wanderful! The Prelude on side1 and the Fuge on the other side.


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