Friday, 31 December 2010

Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen part 1

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

Olivier Messiaen hardly needs any introduction at all. He was one of the most influential composers of the 20th century and organist at Trinité in Paris for 61 years! Here is a little excerpt from Wikipedia anyway:

“Olivier Messiaen; December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, widely regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism. He said he perceived colours when he heard certain musical chords, particularly those built from his modes (a phenomenon known as synaesthesia); combinations of these colours, he said, were important in his compositional process.
Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and was taught by Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré, among others. He was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post held until his death. He taught at the Schola Cantorum during the 1930s where one of his students was Georges Savaria. On the fall of France in 1940, Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, during which time he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments—piano, violin, cello and clarinet. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners for an audience of inmates and prison guards. He was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez and Yvonne Loriod, who became his second wife.”
(Source: Wikipedia)

These recordings are of course mandatory if one wishes to play and interpret the music of Messiaen. They were recorded in La Trinité in June and July 1956, and are in many ways electrifying, but they are not without flaws. I’ll here draw attention to a very detailed article on the subject by Timothy Tikker from 2008, originally posted in The American Organist:
"Granted, the 1956 recordings are not without their flaws. The sound is monophonie (even though stereo was available then), and the fidelity merely adequate - certainly no match for the extraordinary engineering that Mercury Living Presence recordings had already achieved at that time. Also, the organ is in a poor state of repair: sometimes painfully out of tune (the coupled-flutes solo in Diptyque becomes excruciating, as can most registrations with mutations or mixtures) with some poor regulation (the 16' Basson solo low C doubles down something fierce), dead notes (treble D disappears from the Tierce in the monophony of "Offertoire" from Messe de la Pentecôte, p. 4), and sometimes inadequate wind (e.g., the sagging final chord of "Dieu parmi nous"; it figures that if seven stops and a pneumatic lever were added to an organ without increasing its wind capacity, there could be trouble!).”

I really encourage you to read this article and Tikker is of curse right. There are some serious flaws in the recordings. The organ is some places hopelessly out of tune and the fidelity of the sound taken in account recordings took place in 1956 is simply too Low Fi. One story goes, that when Messiaen was asked whether he wanted the organ tuned for the recordings, he replied, “Why, no? It’s only been 15 years since it was tuned the last time”.

Messiaen's performances differ quite a lot from modern performances. They are very pragmatic in the terms of tempo, rhythms and even registrations (even though he plays the works at the exact instrument for which they were composed!).
Some critics say that Messiaen wasn’t really an organist and therefore his rendering of his organ music cannot be trusted as his original intentions. Some critics say that they lack on the technical side simply that Messiaen wasn’t technically up for the job playing his organ music. I think both arguments are quite simply wrong. It’s clear that Messiaen plays his works with brilliance, deep understanding, and he is all the way through technically in total command. When he chooses to go alternative ways compared to the text, it’s because he want’s to do it that way. I don’t like to hail any recording as the definitive recording, but these recordings are a fascinating view into the musicianship and aesthetic of Olivier Messiaen.

Timothy Tikker concludes his article:

“After listening to these recordings for over 30 years, I still find them worthy of deep and careful study. By no means is this to say that one should slavishly imitate the composer's performances. In fact, just as when teaching composition he encouraged each student to find his or her own voice as a composer, Messiaen encouraged performers to develop their own interpretations of his music.40 Rather, Messiaen's recordings can help us to fathom the real spirit of his organ music, which spirit can then "incarnate" in each interpreter in richly varied and individualized ways. In that spirit, I strongly recommend these recordings to all who would study and perform Messiaen's music. “

Some technical details - It’s clear that the music was recorded on magnetic tape; there are some rough cuts here and there, cuts which only were possible with magnetic tape. The sound quality is, as mentioned, very poor compared to other organ recordings produced in the mid 1950s. Lastly but not least perhaps the only thing not entirely up for the job was perhaps the organ, which sounds like it’s in much disrepair. These three things taken into account and the fact that if Olivier Messiaen, as the towering personality he was, also among his contemporaries, had wanted it otherwise, he could most definitely had had it, show him as a very free and pragmatic musician. It’s perhaps a view musicians could incorporate more into the interpretations of his music today?

Thanks to Anders Riber for the transfers of the originals LPs. I’ll be posting the other recordings from 1956 and they are transferred, so stay tuned.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

The Complete Charles Tournemire - remastered by Charles Lever

I’ve been rereleasing some recordings before, but I’ve never rereleased a whole set of recordings before. The reason why I’m rereleasing the Complete Charles Tournemire is because the present transfer is simply the best restoration of I’ve ever heard. The original 78s are from the collection of Michael Gartz, who has been a great supporter of this site and is remastered by Charles Lever.

When you remaster old recordings, you are always faced with problems concerning how much noise you are going to remove and how much equalization you are going to make. When you remove noise, you always remove a little bit of the music as well. So when you restore old recording, you are in fact interpretating the music as well; you can alter the actual the timbre of the instrument and you can “color” nuances as it fits you – in other words it is basically up to the aesthetics of the audio technician how the music is going to sound!

I’ve heard many(!) transfers of old recordings, some are completely free of surface noise and sound hollow and unnatural, and some are hardly remastered at all with too much surface noise so all the details are lost. The best remasterings, in my opinion, are done with a clear musical aesthetic in mind keeping as much surface noise and having a natural sound of the instrument and surroundings, bringing the music as much up front as possible.

The present remasterings have it all! Michael Gartz’s mint condition originals and Charles Lever’s subtle sense of details have provided the most excellent remastering, I’ve ever heard - not just organ recordings but in general. The clarity is simply amazing, and we can now hear details, as we were seated on the organ loft just beside Charles Tournemire back in 1930 and 1931. If Duruflé had been able to hear these remastering, the legendary transcriptions would have been much different.

So sit back and these transfers take you back to Paris in the 1930.

Big thanks to Michael Gartz for sharing these recording with us and letting me use them on IHORC, but as much thanks to Charles Lever for his world class remastering.

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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Jeanne Demessieux, Günther Ramin and Páll Isólfsson (recordings from the 1950s)

This release consists of three sets of recordings. First we have yet another release with the ever inspiring Jeanne Demessieux playing the infamous J. S. Bach Toccata and fugue in d and the J.S. Bach Fantasie and fugue in g-minor from Victoria Hall in Geneva. She recorded several times at Victoria Hall in Geneva. These two pieces were recorded in September 1953 and released on Decca in 1954 on a 10 inch LP. Her version of the Toccata and fugue in d-minor is simply the most electrifying version, I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard many recording of this piece – it rivals Alfred Sittards great rendition of it from 1928 in Hamburg.

The next two items are Günther Ramin playing Max Reger, a Deutsche Grammphon 10 inch LP from 1958. The cover states, “Thomaskantor Günther Ramin an der Beckerath-Orgel”, but it doesn’t state where, and I simply can’t find out. I’ve searched the internet, so please help me here…
I found a not-so-fond-of review from The Grammophone, July 1958, which among other things says:

“Ramin gets in a bit of a tangle on a number of occasions, and he often seems to have difficulty in playing all the notes of a chord exactly together, but he makes a brave shot at it.”

At the end, he concludes:

“Frankly Ramin has not quite the virtuoso qualities Reger asks for. But, then, who has?”

The reviewer is a little too hard on Günther Ramin in my opinion. Ramin copes quite well with the gigantic technical and musical requirements in the piece, and always rates energy and drama for technical perfection, which in my opinion is the right choice in this kind of music.

The last pieces are with the islandic organist Páll Isólfsson. He is quite unknown abroad Iceland,
I think, but I was able to find a little biography on him:

“12 October 1893-23 November 1974 - After organ studies in Germany (1913–18 with Straube at the Leipzig conservatory) and Paris (1925 with Joseph Bonnet) he returned to his native island. He became in 1938 organist of Reykjavík cathedral (till 1968), and in 1930 was appointed director of both the Reykjavík conservatory (till 1957) and the Icelandic Radio (till 1959). Apart from various capriccios, humoresques, intermezzi and other piano piece in the style of the Norwegian (another Viking race) Edvard Grieg (qv), he wrote chroruses and, in 1930, a cantata for the 1000th anniversary of the Althing (Modern Icelandic Alþingi; Old Norse Alþing), the national parliament: literally, the “all-thing”, of Iceland. Further he compiled choral compositions by others, and wrote his 2-part autobiography in 1963–64, a decade before his death. “

These three little pieces by J. S. Bach clearly show Isólfsson as a very capable organist, and since he was invited to recorded for HMV, be must have been quite an organ star. According to - he recorded other things on his visit to London in 1953, among them the J.S. Bach Toccata and fugue and Prelude and fugue in E-flat major. So to paint a more complete picture is him, we probably need recordings like these, but until now the three pieces presented here are promising and interesting.

The transfer was again masterfully done by Claus Byrith.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Marcel Dupré in Queens Hall - 1926-27

Now it’s time for another Marcel Dupré release. This time is probably some his earliest recordings made in Queens Hall, London in 1926 and 1927. Marcel Dupré marked in many ways the “modern” way of playing, and he was immensely popular everywhere he played and most definitely also in England.

HMV was, as far as I know, the first European record company who seriously made organ recordings. I think it was due to the fact, that many of the organists in England were very popular to the people in general. The many concert hall organs popularized the organ and organ music, and many organists could fill concert halls with an enthusiastic audience. So in England were a broad marked for selling organ recordings. A lot of these recordings are, taken the age in consideration, of very high quality and the sound is remarkably clear. One easily forgets that the recordings are over 80 years old.

These recordings are important of several reasons. First of all they document the organ at the old Queens Hall before the destruction in 1941 – the organ was first build in 1893 by Hill then later rebuilt in 1923 to what extent I don’t know. Queens Hall was at the center of music in England, and the history of the hall is very interesting – please visit's_Hall

Secondly they represent, what I think, the best of Marcel Dupres playing. They have vitality and elegance – the gem in this release is the Clerambault, where his style, touch and ornaments is very fluent and elegantly shaped.

I would like to thank the blog “78 toeren en LP's” at - - for this release. Please do visit this excellent site, where you’ll numerous historical recordings. No post recording editing has been used on these recordings.

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Friday, 16 July 2010

Various organists playing organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach

This is the 20th release and to celebrate this I’ve chosen different works by J. S. Bach played by five different organists. As you can see, there are two duplicates; the Alfred Sittard and Fernando Germani have already been released (IHORC-02 and IHORC-11) but the transfer was made from other 78rpms which are of a quality worth presenting here.
Looking back over the 20 releases here on IHORC, it’s very clear that recording organ works J. S. Bach for an organist of that period was standard, and the repertoire is quite broad. Of course there are numerous versions of the famous Toccata and Fugue in d minor, but about all genres of his organ works are represented here in some form or another. All the organists tried their hands on the “big ones”, but they also ventured into the more elusive parts of his organ production, e.g. Heitmann recorded the “Kunst der Fuge”, Walcha the “Schübler Chorales” (on the other hand Walcha has recorded the complete works twice, so he is a little out of the question, but anyway), Germani the “Fuga supra Magnificat”, Vierne parts from the “Orgelbüchlein” and Sittard parts from the Bach-Vivaldi-transcriptions.
Another interesting thing is that since it was popular recording J. S. Bach, it must have been popular as a commercial product. As I pointed out in the Louis Vierne release, it’s rather odd that when the French department of HMV/Odéon finally got Louis Vierne to record, they chose to record J. S. Bach instead of trying to preserve one of the great masters personal interpretations of his own works (like Edward Elgars own electrical recording sessions from 1926-1933). It looks like the organ music of J. S. Bach survived through time and the change of style and taste. We must keep in mind that though the earliest organ recordings here were done from the mid 1920s, the musicians represented span almost 80 years – Widor born 1844 to Demessieux born in 1921. Vierne was the first in the current collection who recorded J. S. Bach and was born in 1870 which makes the time span 51 years up to Demessieux. I’m of course aware of the organists had to consult with the record companies when selecting repertoire, and the record company and the producer nonetheless had the final word (just think of when Sergei Rachmaninoff suggested his record company Victor to his repertoire of his last season which included the Liszt b-minor sonata, the Beethoven Appasionata-sonata and piano duet with the young Horowitz playing his Symphonic Dances and was turned down!). Since Mendelssohns famous revival of J. S. Bachs music, and perhaps even earlier, it’s been in the center of every keyboard player. I think it was Czerny who instructed his students to warm up every morning playing “Das Wohltemperierte” and Hans von Bülow told his student to practice and transpose “Das Wohltemperierte” every day.

Since two of the organists in this release are presented for the first time, I’ll give a short biography on them.

Günther Werner Hans Ramín (15 October 1898 – 27 February 1956) Ramin, the son of a pastor, was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. At the age of 12 he was accepted into the famed Thomanerchor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig by the then-cantor, Gustav Schreck. At the time Karl Straube was Schreck's assistant, and he took note of Ramin's abilities as an organist and composer. Later, when Straube took over the cantorate at the Thomaskirche, Ramin became his assistant, filling in for him as choirmaster and director. During World War I, Ramin was drafted into military service; however, he managed to complete his examinations at the Leipzig Conservatorium with distinction in January 1917 and on 30 May 1918, Straube was able to write to him on the front that he had been chosen as organist of the Thomaskirche. Ramin returned from the war and took up this position, which he held for twenty-two years until World War II broke out. (From Wikipedia)

I’m a bit unsure of where Ramin recorded this piece. Some sources say that it’s the Sauer organ in the Leipziger Thomas Kirche which in many ways make sense, but I’ve with help from a colleague compared the sound and recording with other recordings by Ramin which for sure was made in Thomas Kirche and the sounds doesn’t seem to match. I of course know, that many factors and limitations were in play when making a 78rms organ recording, but if anyone knows anything, please send me an email.

George Dorrington Cunningham (London October 2, 1878 - Birmingham August 4, 1948) important concert organist. Born of musical parents, Cunningham studied piano with his mother, subsequently switching to organ at the Guildhall School of Music. Upon graduation he studied with Josiah Booth at Park Chapel, Crouch End, North London. From there he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music, where he became an FRCO at age eighteen and organist of the Alexandra Palace at twenty-two, in 1901.
After 1900 Cunningham's fame as a recitalist steadily grew. However during the armistice celebrations of 1918 the instrument at Alexandra Palace was wantonly wrecked, and was not restored and re-opened again until December 1929. In 1924 Cunningham was appointed Birmingham City Organist and Birmingham University Organist. He also played often at the Town Hall of the same city.
Cunningham's most important students were E. Power Biggs, George Thalben-Ball, who succeeded him at Birmingham in 1949, and Michael (Stockwin) Howard. (From Wikipedia)

The releases consist of 78rpms from Claus Byrith’s own collection, and I hereby send my best thanks to him for the transfers.

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Sunday, 13 June 2010

Charles-Marie Widor - The complete recordings

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1837) was and still is like Louis Vierne, one the most important organ composers and all organists know that he was organist at the famous Saint-Sulpice in the heart of Paris for 64 years. With the help from the organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll he became a student of Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens and was later to become professor at the Conservatoire in Paris succeeding César Franck. Through his work as a teacher, he defined the way of organ playing, a tradition and style which is still alive today. As an advocate of the instruments of Cavaillé-Coll, he helped to inaugurate several very important instruments, such as Notre-Dame de Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Près, the Trocadéro and Saint-Ouen de Rouen. Like Louis Vierne, his influence cannot be underestimated.

We are so fortunate, that he did choose record 6 sides for the French department of HMV (called “La Voix de son Maître”) in 1932, the year before he retired. It’s quite obvious, that he or his recording company wished to preserve his interpretation of his own works. So they chose to record parts of the Symphonie Gothique, which by my best estimate was not a commercially interesting piece at that time. The Gothique was recorded on four sides, two sides for a complete take of the first movement, one side for the second movement and the last side for the last section of the Finale. Cutting and pasting to fit the time limited 78rpms was typical for the early era of record making. Finally he chose to record his every popular Toccata from the 5th symphony.
When listening to these recordings and especially the Toccata, we must keep in mind that Widor was 88 years old at the time he recorded. One anecdote tells that he had said when recording the Toccata, that “he was closer to the grave that the organ bench”.

One other very important note to these recordings is that Widor was one of the oldest musicians to record. It’s interesting to listen to a musician who had had his musical education from teachers born in the first part of the 19th century and was fully developed as a musician well before the turn of the century. Other French instrumentalists born like Widor in the first part of the 19th century who did make recordings is e.g. Francis Planté (1839-1934), Raoul Pugno (1852-1914) (almost) and Camille Saint-Säens (1835-1921). They all represent a style and taste where rubato was well defined and tastefully rendered in an almost nonpersonal/objective manner. The musical lines are always bold and organic. In my personal opinion I find these recordings even more important than the Vierne recordings due to the repertoire recorded (his own music) and the circumstance that Widor was 88 years old and represents a style almost not documented on organ.

A technical note: We had difficulties splicing the two sides of the Toccata together. The problem is that Widor makes a ritardando towards the end of the first side and stops by making some sort of arpeggio. Again great thanks to Michael Gartz for providing the original 78rpms in great condition and to Claus Byrith for cleaning and cutting the recordings afterwards. Like the Louis Vierne-recordings I can present the best transfer available.

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Saturday, 12 June 2010

Louis Vierne - The complete recordings

Louis Vierne (1870-1937), the famous organist of Notre Dame de Paris, hardly needs any introduction. As a student of César Franck and Charles-Marie Widor he quickly rose to fame and became assistant to Widor at Saint Sulpice in 1892. From 1900 until his death in 1937 he was titulaire at Notre Dame de Paris. Louis Vierne’s importance as an organist and composer cannot be underlined enough. His musical legacy is immense – just think of how many of his works are in the core of the standard repertoire of every organist.

So it’s with great pleasure, that I’m now able to present one of the most legendary cycle of organ recordings. These recordings were made in November 1928 and allow us to listen to the almost intact Cavaillé-Coll organ from 1868. As far as I can read, the only modifications made until 1928 was done by Louis Vierne in 1902.
The recorded repertoire is typical for the period. There is a collection of smaller pieces by J. S. Bach, a single piece by Vierne himself and three improvisations, which Duruflé transcribed along the Tournemire improvisations in 1956. Based on other recording organists of the period, I think that Louis Vierne and his recording company, French Odéon, were thinking of making commercially interesting recordings instead of preserving the legacy of Louis Vierne as it is the case with the recordings of Charles-Marie Widor.
Louis Vierne was 58 years old at that time and they were perhaps thinking that there was still time for another recording session? We can of course only speculate, but it is noteworthy that he did not record any of this larger works such as movements from his symphonies.

The excellent transfers here were provided most generously by Michael Gartz and carefully restored and spliced together by Claus Byrith, and they are in my opinion the best transfers available. Michael Gartz’s original 78rpm’s are of mint condition and as written in the track list three (extremely rare) American pressing were used for six of the sides. Taking in account that these are some of the first organ recordings made in Europe, the sound in this transfer is remarkable clear and detailed.

So I would like to send a big thank to Michael Gartz and Claus Byrith for making these important recordings available in a second to none quality.

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Helmut Walcha playing works by Johann Sebastian Bach part 3

We continue with the third part with Helmut Walcha playing J. S. Bach from Sct. Jacobi Kirche, Lübeck and Cappel. Again, like IHORC-16, it’s from his first cycle of the complete J. S. Bach from 1947-52.

The Toccata, Adagio and fugue in C major, BWV564 and Toccata and fugue in d minor are recorded in Sct. Jacobi, BWV565 while the Fantasia and fugue in g minor, BWV542 and the Pastorale, BWV590 are from Cappel.

The real gem in this release is the Pastorale, where he shapes the pieces with much grace, and we really get to hear the beautiful flute stops of the organ. A bit unlike other his interpretations he fires up the drama in the BWV565.
Thanks again to Claus Byrith for this release. The picture is Helmut Walcha playing the organ in Alkmaar.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Helmut Walcha playing works by J. S. Bach part 2

This is the second release with Helmut Walcha. This time it's from his first cycle of the complete J. S. Bach recordings from 1947-1952. The “Sei gegrüsset” and the “Schübler chorales” are recorded at the Stellwagen organ Sct. Jacobi in Lübeck in 1947 and the Preludes and Fugues from 1952 at one of the most important Schnitger organs situated in Cappel. This release is also interesting due the historic importans of two instruments used.

This link provides a good insight on the organ of Cappel, and the author of this blog even quotes some text from the original Walcha release.

I’ve found som info about the Stellwagen organ in Sct. Jacobi Kirche, Lübeck:

Die kleine Orgel (Stellwagenorgel, Nordorgel) ist deshalb kulturgeschichtlich von allergrößtem Wert. Das gotische Blockwerk von 1467 baute Friedrich Stellwagen 1636/37 zum Hauptwerk mit Schleif-Windladen um und fügte Rückpositiv, Brustwerk und ein schwach besetztes Pedal hinzu. Die Windladen und fast alle Pfeifen der Manualwerke sind noch original vorhanden. Das Pedal wurde seit 1935 -Jakobi-Organist war damals Hugo Distler - weiter ausgebaut. Seit der letzten Restaurierung (Hillebrand 1977/78) hat die Orgel 31 Register auf 3 Manualen und Pedal und steht wieder im alten Chorton (Ganzton höher als heutiger Kammerton). Die Einstimmung erfolgte nach "Werckmeister, 1. Temperatur."(1681)
Alle Pfeifen sind aus hochprozentigem Blei, Ergänzungen und Neuanfertigungen entsprechen in Legierung und Mensur genau dem historischen Bestand.
Die Manuale haben die sogenannte "kurze Oktave": C, D, E, F, G, A bis c''', während das Pedal alle Töne enthält von C bis d'.
Die Stellwagenorgel ist besonders geeignet für Musik der Renaissance, des frühen Barock und der Buxtehude-Zeit. Doch auch viel danach Entstandenes, bis hin zu Werken des 20. Jahrhunderts, gewinnt ganz besondere Frische durch die herrliche, unverwechselbare Farbigkeit dieses Instruments.

Again we can hear Walchas very fine sense of musical lines and his much nuanced way of phrasing. I would especially like to recommend his “Sei gegrüsset” which is very “unhurried” but still balanced compared to modern interpretations and his Schübler chorales are beautifully shaped. Walchas style and temperament was not explosive and some of the more energetic preludes and fugues (e.g. the G major) are in his hand a little bit slow and passive.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Helmut Walcha playing organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach

Helmuth Walcha (1907-1991)

It’s now time for a release with the famous German organist Helmut Walcha. This is the first of initially 4 releases with Walcha playing J. S. Bach. He recorded the complete works by J. S. Bach twice, from 1947-1950 in mono on the Schnitger organ in Cappel and in St. Jakobi in Lübeck and 1956-1971 on the famous organ in Alkmaar. This release is from the Alkmaar serie and is therefore in stereo. A quite interesting thing is to compare it with the IHORC14 release, where Fernando Germani plays the exact same organ about two years later.

The next part is from Wikipedia:
Helmut Walcha (October 27, 1907 in Leipzig, Germany – August 11, 1991 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany) was a blind German organist who specialized in the works of the Dutch and German baroque masters and is known for his recordings of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach. And whom, despite being blinded at 19 by smallpox, is considered one of the great teachers and performers of the organ during the 20th century.

Born in Leipzig, Walcha was blinded at age 19 after vaccination for smallpox. Despite his disability, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory and became an assistant at the Thomaskirche to Günther Ramin, who was professor of organ at the conservatory and cantor at St. Thomas'. In 1929, Walcha accepted a position in Frankfurt am Main at the Friedenskirche and remained in Frankfurt for the rest of his life. From 1933 to 1938 he taught at the Hoch Conservatory. In 1938 he was appointed professor of organ at the Musikhochschule in Frankfurt and organist of the Dreikönigskirche in 1946. He retired from public performance in 1981.

Walcha recorded Bach's complete works twice, once in mono (1947-52), and again in stereo from 1956-71. This latter stereo cycle (released 10/09/2001), has been remastered, and repackaged in an economical collector's edition 12-CD box. This edition also contains the recording of his own conclusion of the last fugue of The Art of Fugue - previously unreleased.

Walcha also composed for the organ. He published four volumes of original chorale preludes (published by C. F. Peters and recorded in part by, for example, Renate Meierjürgen) as well as arrangements for organ of orchestral works written by others.

He lectured on organ music and composition (illustrated by his own playing) at the Hoch Conservatory and the Frankfurt Musikhochschule. One other contribution to music scholarship is his attempted completion of the final (unfinished) fugue of The Art of Fugue.

Compared to our modern style, he tends towards slow tempi and a modern listener might find his playing a bit boring, but I think Helmut Walchas organ playing is always profoundly musical and his melodic lines are very beautifully shaped – like all the other organists and musicians who had their performance style founded in the romantic period. You can find the layout of the Alkmaar organ in the IHORC-14 release. One interesting anecdote is that, due to his blindness, he learned organ pieces by having the right hand, left hand and pedal part played separately twice while listnening and then he was able to play it all together!

I would like to send thanks again to Claus Byrith for providing and transferring the original 1956 LP.

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