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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Richter Request”

August 29, 2011


Dear Michael,

I was curious if Pipedreams has ever, or will ever include a program (or some performances) on Karl Richter (1926-1981)? His additions to the world of music were very profound in his day as far as interpretation goes, bringing enlightenment regarding many composer's works with some expected negativity.

Nicholas

 

Nicholas,

A worthwhile query concerning Karl Richter, as it does seem as though PIPEDREAMS has overlooked this assuredly important figure in the post-war neo-Baroque Bach Revival...perhaps more important for his conducting of the Munich Bach Choir, though Richter's organ playing was significant and he attracted numerous American students who chose not to study with Helmut Walcha (among others).
Unfortunately, like much of the neo-Baroque, Richter has been lost amidst the ongoing surge of musicological inquiry into 'performance practice' and 'period instruments'. His recordings for Deutsche Grammophon (primarily on incisive and bright-sounding modern Marcussen organs) have been superceded by more recent 'informed' recordings on 'historic' instruments (though I can think of at least one more recent Bach cycle also played on a Marcussen organ of a sonority not much different from the instrument Richter used).
In the end, time waits for no one. I've not devoted a lot of attention to Albert Schweitzer, either, though some could argue that he is a key figure in the 20th century Bach awakening. Walcha got my attention in the year of his centenary (2007), and if I and PIPEDREAMS live long enough, I expect that Richter will receive some sort of tribute in his centenary year (1926...I will be 80 then....).
It's also a matter of just 'too much stuff'...I drown in/trip over/am smothered by the number of CDs (and other recordings) on hand, each crying out for attention...dead folks, living mature masters, young upstarts, trend-setters....more than any one weekly 2-hour program (with a staff of 2) can efficiently handle.
Since I did purchase the CD reissue of Richter's DG recordings last year (a bargain box), and have listened to most of them (plus his later recording on the big Silbermann in Freiberg Cathedral), so perhaps it is only a matter of time, and accumulated guilt that I figure out a place to insert a bit of Karl Richter. Perhaps a contrast-and-comparitive all-Bach program with the topic "They Played Like That?"
Yesterdays hang heavy on our shoulders, especially us 'more mature' folks.
But the present and future are calling, too. Though knowledge of the past may inform (or at least make more interesting and vivid) our attitudes about today and tomorrow.
Thanks for the reminder.

 

jmb

 

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