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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Karl Richter…”

December 25, 2013


Dear Michael,

Actually, this isn't a question.
I was just browsing through past letters and came across a query about Karl Richter. I take your point about his modern style of playing . I recall, some 30-odd years ago, being in Buenos Aires to cover the Falklands/Malvinas war for CBC Radio, where I worked at the time. After an interview with a quite thoughtful commentator, I switched off the machine and we continued to talk. For some strange reason, we got around to the subject of the organ. I mentioned the Handel concertos, which I learned from Mr. Richter (I bought the set on Decca in 1959 while on a course in London, bought a re-issue on Ace of Clubs in 1975 while on a visit to London, and later acquired the set on CD).
He was familiar with Richter's interpretation, and was somewhat dismissive -- he thought Richter' treatment of the Handel concertos was self-indulgent. Self-indulgent they may be, but I have a special affection for them, knowing every wrinkle from all those years of listening. I agree that Richter has been somewhat pushed to the sidelines by finicky cognoscenti, but he does have a well-deserved place in the pantheon of key- and pedal-board manipulators!

Keeble McFarlane



Keeble,

Yes, Richter played an important role, taught students who would go on to important careers, and set the 'tone' for many who appreciate organ music.  I particularly remember the big, muscular performance by the Munich Bach Choir of many cantatas and the Matthew Passion.  Indeed, I thought of Richter's magnificent recording of Bach's Magnificat while listening to an excellent local choir perform it (in a different, equally committed and enjoyable) way on Christmas Eve.

The sidelines are populated by many greats and near greats…and we're snart if we pay them all their due.  The 'stars' of today may inevitably find themselves sidelined, too…all it takes is time.

Happy Listening in the New Year!

JMB

 

 

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