Showing posts from 2009

Fernando Germani playing organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach from Alkmaar

Even though I try to present a variety of different organists, the field of historical organ recordings often has its own life, where recordings surface and disappear. Fernando Germani recorded a great deal of music, and his recordings were released in quite big numbers and were well distributed worldwide due to his “big name” in the recording industry. In retrospect it’s therefore quite easy to aquire his recordings. That is why I am able to present the fourth release with him. This time it’s one of the LPs from his legendary recordings at the fabulous Schnitger organ in Alkmaar, Holland. Fernando Germanis organ playing is always great to listen to, but I would especially recommend his version of the Passacaglia, which in my opinion is one of the best ever to be put on record. It has the rythmical intensity and big lines typical for Germani coupled with a really fine sense for registrations. Some technical details; I could not find the exact release date and year for this recording,

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 t

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

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

Fritz Heitmann playing excerpts from J. S. Bach “Clavierübung Dritter Teil”

Here is another great release from The European Archive ( ). This time it’s Fritz Heitmann playing excerpts from J. S. Bach “Dritter Teil” at the Arp-Schnitger organ in Eosander Chapel at Charlottenburg Castle in Berlin. One very interesting thing is that this organ was destroyed during the Second World War in 1944, so this is the only sound document of this organ. I’ve searched for some information on Heitmann and found a little on the German Wiki: Fritz Heitmann (1891-1953) war ein deutscher Organist. Erste Ausbildung bei seinem Vater, der ebenfalls Organist war. Dann besuchte Heitmann das Hamburger Konservatorium für Musik und von 1909 - 1911 war er am Leipziger Konservatorium Schüler von Karl Straube, Max Reger und Josef Pembaur. Als Organist von 1912 bis 1914 am Dom in Schleswig tätig, dann von 1918 bis 1932 an der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche und seit 1919 zugleich an der Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, schließlich von 1932 bis zu seinem Tode Domorganist a

Edouard Mignan, Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux

Now it’s time for the next release with the recordings of Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux in Saint Mark’s Church, London. However, first we start with a recording with Edouard Mignan playing the first movement of Mendelssohns 6th sonata. Edouard Mignan (1884-1969) was a French organist and composer. He was born in Orléans and 14 years old he became the organist of église Saint Paterne. He studied organ in Paris with Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne and won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1912. He was organist at Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin from 1917 to 1935. He succeeded Henri Dallier as organist of la Madeleine in 1935 and held that post until 1962. (From Wiki) Edouard Mignan was succeded by Jeanne Demessieux in La Madeleine. The technical quality of this recording is very poor and everything sounds very chaotic and distant. Also there were some difficulties transferring the second 78rpm side, so there is a big pitch problem there. I’ll try to get it fixed. I know I’ve published

Fernando Germani from Saint Ignazio, Rome (part 2)

Now it’s time for the second release with Fernando Germani at the organ in Saint Ignazio in Rome. These recordings are interesting in many ways. First of all they again show Germani as one of the greatest organists. His beautifully formed musical lines coupled with a fine sense of touch and a great technical ability is a general thread in all his performances. I recommend listening to all of the recordings, but especially the Schumann, his own arrangement of the Frescobaldi Toccata, and Liszt's BACH are simply amazing. Concerning the arrangement of the Frescobaldi Toccata, the sheet music can be found at The Petrucci Library ( ). Collecting information about these old recordings is often very difficult, since the documentation on the records themselves are often very limited. Michael Gartz and I weren’t able to find the composer for the “In dulci jubilo” and I couldn't find any information on track 8 whatsoever. So if you ha

André Marchal playing Johann Sebastian Bach in St. Eustache, Paris

André Marchal (1894-1980) With great thanks to The European Archive ( ) I’ve got permission to use their collection of public domain organ recordings. I haven’t altered anything beside cutting the sound into tracks and renaming them. The first item from EA is an LP released in France around 1945-1950 with André Marchal playing works by Johann Sebastian Bach in his church Saint Eustache in Paris. André Marchal (1894-1980) was a French organist and organ teacher. He was one of the great initiators of the organ revival in France. Marchal was born blind. He studied the organ under Eugène Gigout at the Paris Conservatoire where in 1913 he won their premier prix. He also won the prix d' excellence for fugue and counterpoint in Caussade's class (his counterpoint teacher) in 1917. He taught organ at Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris, and was titular organist of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1915-1945) and Saint-Eustache (1945-1963), his resignati

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,

Selected recordings with Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux

Marcel Dupré and Jeanne Demessieux hardly need any introduction. They were some of the most prominent exponents of the French organ style and two of the most celebrated performers. Anyway, here is a little biography from Wikipedia: Marcel Dupré, May 3, 1886 – May 30, 1971 Marcel Dupré was born in Rouen. Born into a musical family. Dupré entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, where he studied with Louis Diémer and Lazare Lévy (piano), Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne (organ), and Charles-Marie Widor (composition). In 1926, he was appointed professor of organ performance and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire, a position he held until 1954. In 1934, Dupré succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as titular organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until his death in 1971. (Partly from Wikipedia) These recordings were recorded for the British Decca Records in the 1940s. They were recorded in Saint Mark Church in North Audley Street in London on an organ which was maybe not idea

Selected concerto recordings with Walther Fischer and Kurt Grosse

I know this release is sort of incomplete. I’ve been trying find some biographical information concerning Walther Fischer, but havn’t been able to find any even though he was cathedral organist at Berliner Dom and one of the leading figures of the German late romantic school.So please help me out here. If any of you have some information and/or pictures please send it to me. Furthermore it would be very nice if someone has any informantion regarding when the Rheinberger and Händel concertos were recorded, on which organ and with whom. It was almost as diffucult finding something on Kurt Grosse, but I managed to find a little; “Kurt Grosse was a Berliner through and through. Born there in 1890, educated there, worked there and, as far as we know, died there. He was a student at the “Royal Berlin School of Music” from 1914-19, worked as organist at the Garrison church in Spandau and after 1920 moved across as organist and choirmaster to the Friedrich-Werder church”. (This excerpt is fr

The International Historical Organ Recording Collection on Facebook

I've created a group on the network Facebook, where I'll encourage everyone interested in this blog to join. There I'll be posting news and updates. So please look up "The International Historical Organ Recording Collection" and join the group. Best regards, Lars.

Alfred Sittard - Selected recordings from 1928-38

Alfred Sittard was born in Stuttgart in 1878. He studied in Cologne under F. W. Franke and became organist at Dresden Kreuzkirche in 1903, then in 1912 organist at the Michaeliskirche in Hamburg. In 1925 he became professor of organ studies at Universität der Künste in Berlin, where he died in 1942. In his lifetime he was considered one of the foremost organ virtuosos in Germany, which these recordings clearly show. Due to his influence through his teaching post in Berlin, he is a direct connection to the Berlin Organ School of the late 19th century and early 20th century among others like Max Reger and Karl Straube. The solo recordings were recorded from 1928 to 1932. The first six tracks were recorded in Alten Garnisonkirche in Berlin and the others were recorded at the Walcker organ in Michaeliskirche in Hamburg. Alfred Sittard was involved in the construction of this 163 stop organ in 1912.The organ was heavily damaged during the Second World War and in 1962 the organ company Stei

Selected recordings of Niels Otto Raasted from the Cathedral of Copenhagen, Vor Frue Church 1941-1950.

Cathedral Organist Niels Otto Raasted might need a little introduction to non-Danish organists. The danish organist Niels Otto Raasted (1888-1966) was one of the leading – if controversial – church musicians of his time. After studies in Leipzig with Karl Straube and Max Reger he was appointed organist at the Church of Our Lady in Odense in 1915-24 and Cathedral Organist in Copenhagen in 1924-58, where he started the tradition of broadcast morning services. In 1925 he founded the Bach Society, and he was chairman of the composers’ rights organization KODA in 1937-64. He was moreover an active concert organist and organ teacher. As a composer he kept up a high output of works throughout his life, totaling 116 opus numbers, especially organ works (six sonatas in 1917-48), choral music (Mass 1924), hymn tunes, chamber music and orchestral works (three symphonies). In his own lifetime his music was performed frequently, especially in Denmark and Germany. The early works were romantic in

The complete recordings of Charles Tournemire from Saint Clotilde, Paris 1930-31.

These recordings hardly need any introduction to organists. They consist of some works by Cesar Franck, two movements from his L’Orgue Mystique, and of course his legendary five improvisations which Maurice Duruflé transcribed and published in 1958. He was a student of Cesar Franck and was the organist of Saint Clotilde from 1898 succeding Gabriel Pierné until his death in 1939. Though his skills as an interpreter are well preserved here, his greatest ability was to improvise. Until the server space is up and running at the Royal Academy of Aarhus, I have chosen to store the files on They should be quite easy to download and with reasonable speed also. These recordings have kindly been provided by Michael Gartz - a great thanks to him! Download detailed playlist Download link:

Welcome to The International Historical Organ Recording Collection.

Here you will find historic organ recordings transferred from 78rpms and early LPs. They are all recorded before 1959, which makes them public domain and therefore legally publishable. The transfers are privately made by the owners of the original sources, so these recordings are not digital copies from any commercial reissues. The commercial interest and profits in reissuing historic organ recordings are low, and therefore a lot of materials have never been transferred to a more up to date medium. Inspired by the work by Neal Kurz on his very interesting blogsite , and with help from Michael Gartz who holds a huge collection of historic recordings, the sound technician, record collector and historian Claus Byrith, and in collaboration with The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark, I will over time try to publish as many important historical organ recordings as possible. Currently I’m preparing some 78rpm recordings with the young Marc