Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Helmut Walcha - Organ Masters Before Bach

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

To complete our Lenten look at Organ music, I am sharing this Cover 2 Cover YouTube copy of an Achiv-DGG-Eloquence re-issue of a compilation disc by the late great harpsichordist and organist, Helmut Walcha (1907-1991).

One of the great interpreters of J. S. Bach, Mr. Walcha recorded the composer's complete organ works twice, as well as the complete "Well-Tempered Clavier" and, with Henryk Szering, the six sonatas for violin and harpsichord. Although blind, he had an active international career as a performer, recording artist and teacher.

Walcha did not record very much music by composers other than Bach. This disc, his last recording before his retirement at the age of 70, is an overview of the music that stands as a foundation for Bach’s great organ music. No one can deny the importance of Buxtehude in Bach’s career - Bach walked a long distance to meet his elder, and stayed with him for three months, absorbing much of his technique. Three works on this disc are by Buxtehude; other composers represented on this disc, which covers the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries, include such well known names as Johann Pachelbel and Georg Böhm, as well as lesser known composers such as Nicolaus BruhnsSamuel Scheidt and Vincent Lübeck. The wide variety of music presented gives the listener a very good idea of what Bach heard and studied - music which had a great influence on his own compositions.

The YouTube poster, Polyphonie X shares some observations about Walcha’s playing:

Walcha's style being as super humanly lucid and tactful as one would expect from his Bach recordings, though often with an improvisatory character which nothing in those recordings foreshadows. Pachelbel's F minor Chaconne, a rather turgid work under lesser artists' hands, here has a very agreeable forward momentum yet never sounds the slightest bit breathless; it benefits also, as do all other items, from a wonderful instrument (the 18th-century Schnitger organ in Cappel, Germany). The sound quality is - dare one say - perfect: with pleasing resonance, yet no detail gets blurred.
Happy Listening!

Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) 
Prelude And Fugue In D Minor, Buxwv 140
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706) 
Chorale Prelude: O lamm Gottes unschuldig, T. 60
Vincent LUBECK (1654-1740) 
Prelude And Fugue In E Major
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654) 
Chorale Variation: Jesus Christus,Unser Heiland
Nicolaus BRUHNS (1665-1697) 
Prelude And Fugue In E Minor
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) 
Chaconne In C Minor, Buxwv 159
Jan Pieterzoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621) 
Fantasia Chromatica in Dorian, SwWV 258
Franz TUNDER ( 1614-1667) 
Chorale Prelude: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herr Gott
Georg BÖHM (1661-1733) 
Prelude And Fugue In C Major
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706) 
Chaconne In F Minor T. 206
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) 
Passacaglia In D Minor, Buxwv 161

Helmut Walcha
INST: Arp-Schnitger Organ, St. Peter-und-Paul-Kirche of Cappel, Germany

Deutsche Grammophon 469 764-2 (originally released in 1978)

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