Helmut Walcha playing organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach
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.