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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Richard Ellsasser”

May 9, 2008

Dear Michael,

I would appreciate any information regarding Richard Ellsasser. He was a distant cousin of mine. I know that he was at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland as a boy. He was a student of my great Aunt Charlotte Ellsasser in Conneaut Ohio. I am not sure of the family connection as I have found out that he died in 1972.
Charlotte Ellsasser was also a wonderful organist/pianist.
Thank you.




Sorry to be so slow on the uptake. Richard Ellsasser gets mentioned with some occasional regularity by people curious to know when I will do a show on him. It’s difficult, since most of the recordings he made were monophonic LP discs of an inferior vinyl (thus noisier than others), though I do have three stereo albums. There’s just to little time, and to do it right I should be interviewing people who knew him (such as yourself), studied with him, had an opinion about him…and that takes time that I rarely have (to do my program really, really well would require a staff of five; I have two).
Indeed, a college chum with whom I am still in contact, studied with Ellsasser at Interlochen, and as a high school-aged record collector I purchased a number of Ellsasser’s discs, simply because they were of otherwise unrecorded repertoire and ‘interesting’ (also, as bargain reissues from MGM, cheap). I was introduced to Messiaen’s Apparation de l’eglise eternelle by Richard’s recording at the Hammond Castle, and to works by Respighi, D’Indy, Ibert and Castelnuovo-Tedesco, etc. Also, his recording of the MacDowell Woodland Sketches and Grieg’s Holberg Suite (on a cheezy little Baldwin spinet electronic) is one of the marvels of the transcendence of musical interpretation over medium.
He had trouble with alcohol, and whether that contributed to his professional decline (or his lack of success…I am sure he felt himself to be in the same league as Virgil Fox, but for whatever reason, never reached that degree of popular or professional acclaim…contributed to his alcoholism) I cannot say. And beyond that I really don’t know much about the man, but if someone reads this blog and has more to share, I would be happy to send more information on to you (or post it here).





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