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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Elsasser LP”

May 22, 2007

Dear Michael,

Up to now I am not a member of MPR but I intend to soon. I love that station. My question. First, I am amazed that so few organists are familiar with the name of Richard Allassar(?) Nor sure of the spelling.

However, he was supreme. What I would like to know is, would you have a copy of Widor’s 6th organ sympnony played by Richard on the Wannamaker organ in Philly? I had it on a LP but I wore it out. Is it available on an CD? I’ve never heard it played by anyone as great as he played it. I was a church organist for a number of years but now, at 96 years of age, I have nore of less given up playing. Yet, I am very active otherwise. Love your program. Waiting your response. Sincerely,

Bob Nord


Bob,

Richard Elsasser is a mostly forgotten name, and none of his recordings has been reissued in CD format.  I particularly enjoy a recording he made on a small Baldwin electronic (!) of MacDowell’s Woodland Sketches and the Holberg Suite by Grieg…rather amazing for their musicality, despite (or perhaps encouraged by the limitations of) the instrument.

The item to which you refer is not the 6th but the 5th Symphony of Widor, issued on the Nonesuch label (LP) and recorded on the monster, mongrel organ at the John Hayes Hammond Castle/Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts (NOT on the Wanamaker organ).  As recordings of that symphony go, it is a curiosity, but I would encourage you to listen to other recordings of the piece.  Though Elsasser was good, the instrument at the Hammond Castle and the relatively dry acoustics of the place did not provide an ideal vehicle for that repertoire.  You can explore many fine CDs of the piece online at Organ Historical Society Just ‘search’ for Widor Symphony No. 5.  Somehow, with Widor (perhaps less so with MacDowell and Grieg?), the sound is as important as the playing.

Sometimes LP recordings are available through places like the Princeton Record Exchange.

Glad you enjoy the broadcasts. 

Best,
JMB

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