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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

[Helmut Walcha]
Helmut Walcha

Helmut Walcha [1907-1991]
– A Centenary Tribute

…honoring a revered teacher and performer who made history with his authoritative and pioneering recordings of Bach’s organ works.

Program Broadcast dates:

  • Week of October 01, 2007

Links and Resources:

Audio Interviews:

Music played in the program

Helmut Walcha [10/27/1907 — 8/11/1991] earned international acclaim as a performer and teacher of the works of Bach and other German Baroque masters. As a result of a smallpox vaccination, Walcha, who had poor eyesight since childhood, was fully blind by age sixteen. Henceforth, he learned new pieces by having musicians, including his mother in his childhood and his wife in later years, play for him four times, each hand separately, the pedal part separately, and the complete piece. Having perfect pitch, he would memorize the music while listening.

Our program includes reflections from former students, selections from the various Archiv Produktion Bach recordings, both monophonic, 10 CDs, #474747, and stereo, 12 CDs, #463712, made between 1947 and 1971 in Lübeck, Alkmaar and Strasbourg, his 1977 recordings of other old German masters, Deutsche Grammophon 469 764 for Tunder and Archiv 427 133 for Buxtehude, several of his original compositions played by Renata Meierjürgen on the ‘Walcha Organ’ at Frankfurt’s Dreikönigskirche, an LP album recently reissued in CD format by Motette Verlag, and an excerpt from his final recital program at the Dreikönigskirche, Frankfurt, courtesy of the Hessian Radio.

J.S. BACH: 2 Schübler Chorale-preludes: Wachet auf, S. 645; Wo soll ich fliehen hin, S. 646, recorded August 1947 (1637 Stellwagen/St. Jacobi Church, Lübeck, Germany)

J.S. BACH: Chorale-prelude, Allein Gott, in der Höh’, S. 676, from Clavierübung III; Prelude in C, S. 531, recorded June 1950 & September 1952 (1680 Arp Schnitger/St. Peter & Paul Church, Cappel, Germany)

J.S. BACH: Toccata in d, S. 565; Fugue in d, S. 538, recorded September 1956 & September 1962 (1725 F.C. Schnitger/Sint Laurenskerk, Alkmaar, The Netherlands)

J.S. BACH: Chorale-prelude, Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele, S. 654, recorded May 1971 (1780 Silbermann/Église Saint Pierre-le-Jeune, Strasbourg, France)

HELMUT WALCHA: Improvised Demonstrations, recorded September 1952 (1680 Arp Schnitger/St. Peter & Paul Church, Cappel, Germany)

HELMUT WALCHA: Chorale-preludes: Erstanden ist der heilg Christ; Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Der Tag ist hin, Jesus, bei mir bleibe; Gelobt sei Gott im höchsten Thron –Renate Meierjürgen, recorded September 1980 (1961 Karl Schuke/Dreikönigskirche, Frankfurt, Germany) Motette CD MOT 10391

DIETERICH BUXTEHUDE: Ciacona in e, BuxWV 160, recorded 1977 (1680 Arp Schnitger/St. Peter & Paul Church, Cappel, Germany) J.S. BACH: Trio Sonata Number 5 in C, 1st movement, S. 529, recorded September 1969 (1780 Silbermann/Église Saint Pierre-le-Jeune, Strasbourg, France)

FRANZ TUNDER: Fantasy, Komm, heiliger Geist, recorded September 1977 (1680 Arp Schnitger/St. Peter & Paul Church, Cappel, Germany)

J.S. BACH: Fantasy in c, S. 537, recorded September 1962 (1725 F.C. Schnitger/Sint Laurenskerk, Alkmaar, The Netherlands)

J.S. BACH: Fugue in c, S. 582, recorded May 1981 (1961 Karl Schuke/Dreikönigskirche, Frankfurt, Germany)

Filler –J.S. BACH: Chorale-prelude, Schmücke dich (see above)