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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