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Fritz Heitmann


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full topic subtitle: "...related to the development of the American Classical Organ" - Sorry, also for missing URLs in first version of this post!!

 

Related with two other threads (Rediscovery of north german baroque organs; and E. P. Biggs), the name of Fritz Heitmann recently appeared in this forum, and MM was interested to learn more. For me, too, his name was known but not really the personality behind. As I am going to take over a post with a large instrument designed and inaugurated by Heitmann, I started some investigation. I was very impressed to hear him play on historic recordings of 1940 and 1944, made on the large Sauer organ of Berlin cathedral from 1905 (4 manuals, 113 stops, fully tubular pneumatic action).

Heitmann (1891-1953) has grown up with the small Schnitger organ of Hamburg-Ochsenwerder and was later educated by Karl Straube in Leipzig. This education led to the fact that he became a real Bach evangelist, but on the other hand it was impossible for him not to deal intensively with the music of Reger. Concert reviews from Europe and the US state that his performances must have been very impressive. And yes, you will ask, how did he come through the Nazi era...? Well, he was definitely no resistance fighter. But he was a very christian person and kept his full post as cathedral organist, which caused authorities to reduce his teaching duties. But he was also undersigner of documents, regarding the future of german church music, which, seen today, were of very doubtful content.

Heitmann was professor at the Berlin conservatory, and he toured the US in 1939 and 1950. Both dates strengthen the impression that his capabilities where found to be appropriate to keep the last or build the first bridges between German and US-american music culture. I post this here, because on his tours he became friend of Edward Power Biggs and Arthur Howes, two important persons of the American "Orgelbewegung". Heitmann referred to that term later: "Wir brauchen eine permanente Bewegung um die Orgel" - "Regarding the organ, we need a PERMANENT movement". He played music down to Praetorius on instruments, which would be judged by today's players as absolutely inadequate for music older than 1800. His programmes included contemporary masters, mostly from Germany, but he played e. g. Howells, Alain, Messiaen and swedish composers, too. He was also a demanded teacher. His few essays on organ building warned from pure historicism, but appealed for the search for the very organ. In today's words, he would be a lover of the "the best from both worlds" phrase. He would have loved the American classical organ (he was closely connected to D. Harrison) and the finer of the larger new instruments of the last decades in all over Europe, perhaps his Bach focus would prefer English and German designs before French...

I think, the compact disc is sold out, so I hope not to get charged for posting some mp3-files for those of you more interested.

Listen to a section form Bachs Dorian Toccata, which comes out quite articulated and with fresh speed - note the acoustically VERY appropriate gap (incredible reverberation there...) before the first Ruckpositiv section

Prelude in b minor is very fresh (not to say fast), too

From the Toccata 565 d-minor there is the opening of the fugue - some small mistakes there and a sort of haste. The recording is undated, but tonally it refers to the later ones of february 1944 - maybe not the best time to make recordings in Berlin...

From the g-minor fantasy 542 also the opening with a large gap before the second idea - note the fine 8'-chorus...

It's interesting that there is a nearly complete absence of pedal reeds except the final chords. To hear the larger reeds, we have to turn to Heitmann's second musical root, Max Reger. Here is a collage of sections from Introduktion & Passacaglia d-minor.

Hope you enjoyed it, comments welcome...

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Guest Geoff McMahon

What fascinating clips these are to my ears, the more so having seen the Berliner Dom organ for the first time last month, but not having been able to hear it. Two things still surprised me. Firstly, the playing struck me as being remarkably modern (for want of a better word) for the time they were done and secondly, it demonstrates once again how strong the roots of German romantic organ are in what preceded it. One finds the same thing in the Ladegast organs as well of course (Ladegast having claimed he made his pipes in the same style as did Silbermann). One finds the same thing in the early C-C organs as well of course (St. Omer being a good example, although this was a rebuild of course). Does the Berliner Dom organ still sound like this?

 

One also has to note what a remarkable achievement the recording seems to be. Firstly of course, simply doing it at that time in Berlin. Particularly in 1944, one would have imagined that there was very little enthusiasm for doing things like recording organs, let alone the availability of material to do it. But more than that is the (what I believe to be) very difficult acoustic in the Berliner Dom. Although I have not heard any music in it myself, I gather from my friend in Berlin that finding a spot to hear from without the sound being confusing is not at all easy.

 

Thank you for the fascinating clips and do let us know if the CD did become available again.

 

John Pike Mander

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What fascinating clips these are to my ears, the more so having seen the Berliner Dom organ for the first time last month, but not having been able to hear it. Two things still surprised me. Firstly, the playing struck me as being remarkably modern (for want of a better word) for the time they were done and secondly, it demonstrates once again how strong the roots of German romantic organ are in what preceded it. One finds the same thing in the Ladegast organs as well of course (Ladegast having claimed he made his pipes in the same style as did Silbermann). One finds the same thing in the early C-C organs as well of course (St. Omer being a good example, although this was a rebuild of course). Does the Berliner Dom organ still sound like this?

 

One also has to note what a remarkable achievement the recording seems to be. Firstly of course, simply doing it at that time in Berlin. Particularly in 1944, one would have imagined that there was very little enthusiasm for doing things like recording organs, let alone the availability of material to do it. But more than that is the (what I believe to be) very difficult acoustic in the Berliner Dom. Although I have not heard any music in it myself, I gather from my friend in Berlin that finding a spot to hear from without the sound being confusing is not at all easy.

 

Thank you for the fascinating clips and do let us know if the CD did become available again.

 

John Pike Mander

 

 

=====================

 

 

I too have found these clips very interesting, and which compare to a large extent with a sound-clip I discovered of Karl Straube playing the BWV565 at the "Hundred year hall," Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland).

 

The speed is very similar, and one presumes that this must have been a real reaction to the much more romantic and slower Bach performances then quite common in Germany. (Schweitzer demonstrated that same slowness of approach, but eschewed extreme use of expression).

 

For Herr Kropf's benefit, I shall have to see if I can find the link I posted to another Bach performance from Germany, which is the total opposite of what Prof.Heitmann recorded.

 

John's comment about Ladegast is also interesting, and I would suggest that the "older style" of voicing had probably never radically changed for very good reason.

 

One of the things to emerge from my extensive research into Eastern Europe, was the inescapable fact that nothing changed very much for nigh on 200 years, simply because music had moved away from the organ, and found a home in orchestral music, chamber music and opera. It is more heightened there than ever it was in Germany, where organs grew ever larger and more expressive as a result of Ladegast and Walcker: Ladegast representing very much the "Berlin" style of organ-building. In fact, it wasn't until the 1930's (or thereabouts) that Widermann insisted on re-building the organ of St.James', Prague in "romantic style," (Rieger) and which marked a first for the former Czechoslovakia.

 

As a bit of a Euro-enthusiast, it all reminds me of just what a fabulous treasure-chest exists, and into which we have the privilege of gazing with endless fascination.

 

MM

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Related with two other threads (Rediscovery of north german baroque organs; and E. P. Biggs), the name of Fritz Heitmann recently appeared in this forum, and MM was interested to learn more. For me, too, his name was known but not really the personality behind.

 

=========================

 

 

 

For the benefit of Herr Kropf, I shall repeat a link to a fascinating programme of Bach's music, which appeared on the American radio programme "Pipedreams."

 

The performance which most fascinated me was that by Kate von Tricht:-

 

http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/0433/

 

 

MM

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=========================

For the benefit of Herr Kropf, I shall repeat a link to a fascinating programme of Bach's music, which appeared on the American radio programme "Pipedreams."

 

The performance which most fascinated me was that by Kate von Tricht:-

 

http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/0433/

MM

 

Thank you so much for that link - I went into the program a little, but time did not allow yet to hear it completely..... I knew about "pipedreams" in principle but did not know that there is the possibility to trace Iarchived airings! Great to have such an institution. Don't know about other reader's home countries, but in Germany (and Austria), there is a noticeable decrease of organ music in radio programs, as all responsibles are staring on the "quota" (which always will be a small one for organ music, more or less), and even around or after midnight you will hardly find a program which offers more than archived short Orgelbüchlein recordings of local "masters" to fill gaps in the program...

 

What fascinating clips these are to my ears, the more so having seen the Berliner Dom organ for the first time last month, but not having been able to hear it. Two things still surprised me. Firstly, the playing struck me as being remarkably modern (for want of a better word) for the time they were done

 

I share John's impression, and want to talk about the first Heitmann sample above:

The opening phrase of the dorian toccata sounds nice, not only because of the articulation pattern of "Two notes tied, two notes open", which is also fashionable today and against, say, the Dupré all-legato style [though it can be as boring as legato, if not slightly modified throughout the playing].

But it is even more interesting because of the little stressing of the first sixteenth upon the first and the third beat - today, mostly appreciating that kind of playing if not applied in too much, we would refer to historic sources talking about "good" and "bad" notes, "quantitas intrinseca" etc.

But Heitmann, Straube a. o. certainly did not know anything about that! They simply FELT the need for such a way of playing, and that is a sign for being a gifted musician, IMHO...!

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Thank you so much for that link - I went into the program a little, but time did not allow yet to hear it completely.....

 

 

They simply FELT the need for such a way of playing, and that is a sign for being a gifted musician, IMHO...!

 

 

======================

 

 

The various "pipedreams" programmes can be scrolled along in something like "RealPlayer."

 

I couldn't find the reference when I gave the link to that particular programme, but using the little "clock," you can pick things up very accurately within the body of the main-programme, and just go to the bits you want to hear.

 

Unofrtunately, I have a sound-problem on my computer at the moment, so I wasn't able to do this. To hear anything, I currently have to download any clips (usually mp3) and then burn a rewritable disc and play them in the DVD player, which is a bit of a pain.

 

Unofrtunately, this is not possible with the "pipedreams" programmes, due to copyright laws and such.

 

On the last point, I couldn't agree more. I have never liked "performance editions" of anything, and tend to play from "urtext" scoring.

 

I'm delighted that this being so, I do exactly the same with the "Dorian" as that described, but whether that makes me a good musician, I'm not so sure!

 

I just call it "instinct."

 

MM

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What fascinating clips these are to my ears, the more so having seen the Berliner Dom organ for the first time last month, but not having been able to hear it. Two things still surprised me. Firstly, the playing struck me as being remarkably modern (for want of a better word) for the time they were done and secondly, it demonstrates once again how strong the roots of German romantic organ are in what preceded it. One finds the same thing in the Ladegast organs as well of course (Ladegast having claimed he made his pipes in the same style as did Silbermann). One finds the same thing in the early C-C organs as well of course (St. Omer being a good example, although this was a rebuild of course). Does the Berliner Dom organ still sound like this?

 

One also has to note what a remarkable achievement the recording seems to be. Firstly of course, simply doing it at that time in Berlin. Particularly in 1944, one would have imagined that there was very little enthusiasm for doing things like recording organs, let alone the availability of material to do it. But more than that is the (what I believe to be) very difficult acoustic in the Berliner Dom. Although I have not heard any music in it myself, I gather from my friend in Berlin that finding a spot to hear from without the sound being confusing is not at all easy.

 

Thank you for the fascinating clips and do let us know if the CD did become available again.

 

John Pike Mander

 

I was fortunate enough to attend the opening recital on restored organ on the day of the re-dedication of the Berliner Dom on Sunday 6th June 1993, a memorable occasion. Heinz Wunderlich played works by Bach and Reger, among others. I remember the sound being less confused than one might have expected. Despite the huge volume of the dome, I suspect the acoustic is not as difficult as, say, St Paul's. I have heard the instrument on several occasions since, in both services and recitals. It is a rich warm sound but not a vast one, the 'volles Werk' being even a little underwhelming. This may have something to do with the fact that most of the windchests are apparently below impost level in the heavy mahogany(?) case which is little more than a facade.

 

It's something of a miracle the organ survived for deacdes in the roofless near-ruin of the cathedral with shrapnel holes clearly visible in the front pipes. Fortunately the north transept remained more or less intact and may have afforded some protection to the organ in the gallery below.

 

After the war I believe Heitmann himself proposed a radical rebuilding of the organ with 5 manuals, mechanical action, largely new pipework and a neo-barock specification. Fortunately perhaps, there were other priorities in the GDR of the 1950s. After 40 years of silence, the modern Sauer firm brought this remarkable piece of organ history back to life, a wonderful achievement.

 

JS

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After the war I believe Heitmann himself proposed a radical rebuilding of the organ with 5 manuals, mechanical action, largely new pipework and a neo-barock specification. Fortunately perhaps, there were other priorities in the GDR of the 1950s. After 40 years of silence, the modern Sauer firm brought this remarkable piece of organ history back to life, a wonderful achievement.

 

JS

As posted in another topic, this vast rebuild was already suggested by Heitmann in April 1941 and worked out by Rudolf von Beckerath. There schould be 115 stops on V/P, the Sauer pipework should have been partially re-used, the new action should be a mix-up of the existent pneumatic elements and a new electric console. Everybody knows why this rebuild never was realized. And even with great respect for R v Beckerath, we are happy about that (not about the reasons, of course....).

 

But under supervision of Hans Henny Jahnn (he provided the scaling), the Rückpositiv has been altered in 1932 like this:

 

Sauer 1905:

Flötenprinzipal 8'

Flöte 8'

Gedackt 8'

Dulciana 8'

Zartflöte 4'

 

Heitmann/Jahnn/Sauer 1932:

Gedackt 8'

Terzian 2r

Sifflöte 1'

Cymbel 3r

Krummhorn 8'

 

And the Pedal Organ: new Mixture on the place of the Violon 16', which remained preserved within the instrument.

 

Originally, a Sesquialtera was planned in place of the Terzian. Asking the permission for this rebuild, Heitmann wrote to the authorities in 1932:

"In the past ten years [...] the views of organ sound and organ specification have changed noticeably". He really talked about a Rückpositiv in that letter, though it was originally intended as a more decorative element, filled with pipework which could serve as accompaniment for soloists on the organ loft.

Heitmann "sold" this rebuild not only as improvement for the important concert series, but also for congregational singing, to give the congregation stops which would provide easy-to-follow leading of the melodic line. He offered to pay for the rebuild from the income of his concerts and was just asking for support. During the restoration of the cathedral in the 80ies/90ies, except some details, the organ was restored to its 1904 state.

 

Heitmann died in 1953, thus he experienced the GDR just for four years.

Following Website offers Images (impressive the pics of the destroyed cathedral) and audio samples ("Hörprobe"), its in German, but you should be able to manage it...

 

Berlin Cathedral Organ

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Just want to add to my post above:

To see the images on the named website, click the small thumbnails on the left.

Secont thing: I want to invite you to listen again to Heitmann (URLs some posts above) and then to the samples on that Berlin website:

Andreas Sieling, recently elected cathedral organist, plays the Carillon de Westminster, but he obviously has little problems with playing precisely. And then note, that he "forgets" to audibly separate the loud from the more silent section - reverberation fills everything up, and a small section of the music really disappears.

 

I heard the same thing there in a concert by Ursula Hauser from Switzerland. She played Mendelssohn Sonatas, and, IMHO, did not adapt here playing in any way to that instrument (she was on concert tour). You all know the f minor sonata, third movement, this recitativo scenes: After the fortissimo chords, each time she started much too early with the next solo entry, which was still under cover of the reverberation of the chords.

I have never been to St Paul's Cathedral, but the situation must be similar...

 

The microphones of the Sieling recording obviously were set up on the loft, the balance is not fine (check the Bach Air clip) and action noise is too much. I do not want to say anything against Mr Sieling, but to me, the Heitmann recordings of 1940 seem to be the more impressive thing!

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  • 2 years later...

Today I discovered a wonderful webpage, dedicated to historical organ recordings.

 

It has two absolutely stunning and -in many aspects- historically very important recordings of Fritz Heitmann. First, the 1950 recording on the (then brand-new) Schuke-organ in the Gruft-Kapelle of the Berlin Dom with excerpts of Bachs Kunst der Fuge and second, the 1938 recording with excerpts of Bachs Clavierübung Dritter Teil on de Schnitger-organ in Castle Charlottenburg (destroyed in WWII).

 

There are also very rare and (to me) unknown recordings by Marcel Dupré, André Marchal and others.

 

http://ihorc.blogspot.com

 

 

Theo

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