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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