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20th C German Composers


giwro
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MM is often heard on these pages giving us a nudge to explore organ music from places we often ignore (or know nothing about!)....

 

I am curious if anyone here plays/enjoys/has explored the modern Germanic repertoire - it seems largely neglected on my side of the pond. I've never heard anyone give a good reason for it, but I would guess it has to do with some left-over stigma attached to composers who lived through WWII in that part of the world. I know many of them tried to stay out of the politics, or even quietly/privately disagreed with the policies of their government, but that seems to have made no difference to most of us (at least it has seemingly consigned their music to be largely ignored)

 

I'm speaking of composers like Hermann Schroeder, Harald Genzmer, Ernst Pepping, JN David, Josef Ahrens, Micheelsen, etc. There is some very fine music written by these gentlemen, and I hardly ever hear it. Further to that, even the Austrians seem neglected - Georg Trexler, Augustinus Kropfreiter, Josef Doppelbauer...

 

The local Uni library has quite a collection of scores from this era, and I have enjoyed exploring this unfamiliar repertoire....

 

What say ye?

 

-G

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<snip>

 

What say ye?

 

-G

Good to see someone's looking at this stuff - there are lot of good pieces which, as you say, don't get much exposure.

 

One of my teachers (Conrad Eden) was a keen student of this music -and the related Scandinavians (Nielsen, Reda etc) so I was encouraged to learn quite a lot of this repertoire as a rookie. Pieces that I still play include the Kleine Praeludien Op 9 of Schroeder (the final C major one is a good short end piece), the Holstein Orgelbuchlein of Micheelsen, the Choralvorspiele of Max Drischner and some of the Thirty Pieces Op 18/1 of Distler - there are 'free' pieces and also sets of variations. There are several other "orgelbuchlein"s of this period. Most have a mixture of movements that can be put together to form suites of varying length and complexity. This music is mostly for manuals - useful with pupils who play the piano well and want to play something more recent.

 

There is a wide-ranging collection of music mainly from Germany called Zeitgenossische orgelmusik in Gottesdienst published by Hinrichsen. Vol IV (No 2006d) (1970) includes works by Baum, Burkhard, Ducommun, Dupre, Heer, Hens, Hess, Jenny, Kraft, Kuhn, Langlais, Micheelsen, Muller, Pfiffner, Reichel, Schroeder, Studer, Vollenweider, and Wehrle a total of 36 pieces arranged in key order. The quality is variable but there's enough that's worth a look. I've not seen the other volumes (I have a feeling that they are from earlier periods)

 

There are also three very good Sonatas by P. Hindemith that seem to have disappeared from view!

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I tried to get hold of the Holstein Orgelbuchlein of Micheelsen recently (after reading an article on OR by Stephen Taylor from Utrecht) without success. 'Anyone know if it is out of print or where one could be 'got from'?

 

AJJ

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I must admit that I don't play much modern German music.

 

I used to have Hindemith's first in my repertoire and keep feeling that I ought to get hold of no.2. I agree with mgp about these. They really are first-rate pieces. Why doesn't anyone seem to play them these days?

 

I have the first three volumes of Helmut Walcha's Chorale Preludes, some of which are rather fun, though I find them all rather lightweight - with more ingenuity than content. You also need a classically voiced organ to do them justice.

 

Recently I picked up a piece by Pepping in a secondhand book shop and read it through, but it didn't appeal.

 

In my teens I bought a copy a Schönberg's Variations - it's still in almost mint condition!

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MM is often heard on these pages giving us a nudge to explore organ music from places we often ignore (or know nothing about!)....

 

 

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

 

 

Well, I for one know (but do not play) the Schroeder Sonata, which is an impressive work.

 

I would say much the same about the music of the Austrian composer, Franz Schmidt, which seems to be largely ignored.

 

Going back to the early years of the last century, there is some impressive music from Wilhelm Middelschulte, but few know anything beyond the "Perpetuem Mobile" made famous by Virgil Fox.

 

Here are a coupld of interesting links; one of which I have posted previously, and one which is a link to a Pipedreams Programme largely about Middelschulte.

 

For the other link, you will have to dig around to find the excellent and very lively fugue by Trompke, but the other mp3 of music by Eben and Bach are worth listening to.

 

http://www.gunther-rost.de/hoerproben.php

 

http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/0538/

 

We should NOT be neglecting music as good as this!

 

There are times when I want to start a "France is old hat" movement.

 

MM

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Good to see someone's looking at this stuff - there are lot of good pieces which, as you say, don't get much exposure.

 

One of my teachers (Conrad Eden) was a keen student of this music -and the related Scandinavians (Nielsen, Reda etc) so I was encouraged to learn quite a lot of this repertoire as a rookie.

 

<snip>

 

 

REDA!

 

I forgot Reda....

 

I have looked also at his stuff - I came across a set of short CP by him, and also have seen a few other scores.

 

Some if this music sounds like nothing else I've ever heard - from arresting to simply zany, but never boring.

 

Cheers,

 

-G

 

I must admit that I don't play much modern German music.

 

Recently I picked up a piece by Pepping in a secondhand book shop and read it through, but it didn't appeal.

 

In my teens I bought a copy a Schönberg's Variations - it's still in almost mint condition!

 

I have to say that IMHO the Pepping works are rather variable in quality - the little CP are nice, and the solo concerti for organ.

 

I think much of this music requires a bit of careful study in order to really begin to appreciate it.

 

-G

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<snip>

 

In my teens I bought a copy a Schönberg's Variations - it's still in almost mint condition!

This was another of CWE's great enthusiasms so I 'had' to learn it and came to love it - although '12 tone' its clearly in d minor - but the registration scheme (based on the old organ at Harvard) is another matter. Given Downes was another advocate (and gave many performances of the Hindemith sonatas) is this 'Carl Weinrich' connection another 'cross-link' for MM??

 

Peripherally related - how about the Scandinavian Otto Olsson? I used to have a recording of Hans Fagius playing some of his music including the energetic Sonata in E.

 

Peter

There's a detailed study of his music (and 2CDs) by Sverker Jullander - part of his PhD. There's more information at the GO Art website

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

Well, I for one know (but do not play) the Schroeder Sonata, which is an impressive work.

 

MM

 

There is a good recording of Graham Steed playing this at Blackburn Cathedral, on Michael Smythe's old Vista label. I also have the score somewhere. I did once start to learn it - perhaps I should have another go.

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There is a good recording of Graham Steed playing this at Blackburn Cathedral, on Michael Smythe's old Vista label. I also have the score somewhere. I did once start to learn it - perhaps I should have another go.

 

I have the scores to all THREE of Schroeder's Sonatas....

 

I must confess that I like Sonata 1 the best - it sounds almost romantic in spots. Sonata 2 is also interesting, but doesn't strike me quite as well as #1. (although as I'm listening to it as I type this, I find I like it better than the first time I heard it!) I've not taken the time to peruse #3 - perhaps I should follow my own advice, and see if it is a worthy piece B)

 

I enjoy Schroeder's Partita on Veni Creator - anyone here that has heard it?

 

*********

 

I forgot to mention another composer from that era - Günter Raphael - author of a number of organ works, including a fine organ concerto, an organ sonata and a number of other pieces (a fine Prelude and "variation Fugue" - a curious creation in which the theme is varied, and each variation is another fugue... odd). Raphael also wrote a number of Sonatas for organ and solo instrument (as did many others of his era).

 

Cheers,

 

-G

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Hello! Nice topic, could have appeared in a German forum!!!

 

Also on THIS side of the pond, this music is widely ignored, too!

Let me pick up some names:

Hindemith, great sonatas! Take the 2nd as starter (is much more popular than the 1st or the 3rd) and play it a little bit more lively, regarding articulation, than indicated. You know his nice music for chamber orchestra and organ? Sounds great until the organ starts! It is VERY strange that a musician and humurous player like Hindemith (listen to his string quartet recordings) believed, that organ music must be that boring as it appears, if you just play what is written! A shame for his contemporary organists, who where not able (due to reason being currently discussed on these pages here) to show him more of our instrument. Or he always met the "wrong" people...

Hugo Distler - sounds great on every historic or neo-baroque organ.

Anton Heiller (though post WW II period) - his Tanz-Toccata is widely known, but some other pieces are also interesting and of a more "serious" touch.

Siegfried Reda is very underestimated, but I don't really know his music.

Johann Nepomuk David: Try the first, say, 8 or 10 volumes of the "Choralwerk", later works become really difficult for the audience....

Franz Schmidt was mentioned, I'm just practising his Toccata C-major (universal edition) - very interesting patterns, themes (classical sonata form with two themes), and a FINE piece for concert and service! Not without technical challenges, but there are enough gifted players here...

[btw, linking to other topics: Fritz Heitmann visited Vienna under Schmidt's tenure of being head of the academy of music. They became friends...]

 

In general, there is much difference (IMO) between pre-war and post-war organ music. The first has a portion of enthusiasm in it, and it contains certainly the search for a larger "vision" of something, often searching in the musical past and adapting registrations and textures (e. g. Distler). Needless to say, that searching for a vision in the 30ies was fashionable and a need for many, and we know the outcome and the idea, that succeeded. So, dealing with this music is not easy, certainly in Germany. I myself am starting to investigate if it is possible to get really musical results out of that epoque, without being charged for nostalgy for 30ies politics - or without being held-up with talking about the political orientation of all those composers themselves, who always have been, more or less, part of the system, as we would be today under liking circumstances. [To make it clear: I just mean, what would I have done if I'd been church musician and composer in 1933's Germany? Would my biography stand the judgement of later generations...?]

 

The post-war music mostly carries a sort of penitence atmosphere. When already after WW I artists refused to paint or compose idylls, much more of that attitude was present after WW II.

In the music, there was a nearly complete absence of triads, and in those decades much of the music may have served fine as a valve for the public's emotions.

But in the 70ies, for typical German audiences it developed that "contemporary music has to hurt", and reacting to this in the last decade and still today, there is a noticeable movement to catch up with "nice" music, and you would be amazed if you knew how many performances of music by John Rutter a. o. of that kind are taking place here.

People are longing for music that is new AND one loves to listen to. And the wide majority of German organ music from the 20ies, 30ies, 40ies (few existing), 50ies, 60ies and 70ies is definitely not the latter.

That's why German organists do not play this music much more often than those in the anglo-american regions...

In some months I will take over a large instrument with material mostly from 1938, and that is the reason why I'm asking myself if there are more things to discover in 20th century music, and certainly German music...

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Hello! Nice topic, could have appeared in a German forum!!!

 

It is VERY strange that a musician and humurous player like Hindemith (listen to his string quartet recordings) believed, that organ music must be that boring as it appears, if you just play what is written!

 

 

I'm sure Hindemith did indeed have a sense of humour. My favourite quotations of his - remembering he was a string player - is:-

 

"I don't know how Bach, with no vibrato, could have so many children".

 

JS

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I'm sure Hindemith did indeed have a sense of humour. My favourite quotations of his - remembering he was a string player - is:-

 

"I don't know how Bach, with no vibrato, could have so many children".

 

JS

And many readers here might smile (sigh?) at the fact, that during his Berlin period (1927-35), he regularly invited friends on sunday to play with the model railroad...!

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And many readers here might smile (sigh?) at the fact, that during his Berlin period (1927-35), he regularly invited friends on sunday to play with the model railroad...!

 

Oh - Hindemith! For a moment there, I had thought that you were referring to Bach.... B)

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BTW. Reda was German - his organ works are very interesting though quite difficult to understand (and quite bound to 'his' organ in stopselection).

 

Micheelsen is nice, I quite like the 'Es sungen drei Engel' concerto.

 

There some serenity or 'open-ness' in this 20th century German music that I find rather nice, though I doubt that it's suitable for a large® public (the french sound so much more popular ...)

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In general, there is much difference (IMO) between pre-war and post-war organ music. The first has a portion of enthusiasm in it, and it contains certainly the search for a larger "vision" of something, often searching in the musical past and adapting registrations and textures (e. g. Distler). Needless to say, that searching for a vision in the 30ies was fashionable and a need for many, and we know the outcome and the idea, that succeeded. So, dealing with this music is not easy, certainly in Germany. I myself am starting to investigate if it is possible to get really musical results out of that epoque, without being charged for nostalgy for 30ies politics - or without being held-up with talking about the political orientation of all those composers themselves, who always have been, more or less, part of the system, as we would be today under liking circumstances. [To make it clear: I just mean, what would I have done if I'd been church musician and composer in 1933's Germany? Would my biography stand the judgement of later generations...?]

 

The post-war music mostly carries a sort of penitence atmosphere. When already after WW I artists refused to paint or compose idylls, much more of that attitude was present after WW II.

In the music, there was a nearly complete absence of triads, and in those decades much of the music may have served fine as a valve for the public's emotions.

 

 

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

 

 

I don't think any artist or musician should feel obliged to worry about being associated with bad things from the past.

 

Do we, in England, ever stop singing "Messiah," written by a man who accepted the patronage of people who were quite happy to condone the transportation of slaves from Africa?

 

Do we stop enjoying Walton's "Spitfire Prelude & Fugue" in the knowledge that "Bomber" Harris destroyed, (to no strategic advantage), the great City of Berlin and so many wonderful Silberman instruments?

 

No, we should never apolgise for history, because even in the darkest of hours, there is the paradox of great goodness and individual principles.....the Albert Schweitzers, Dietrich Boenhoffers, Oskar Schindlers and John Paul IIs of this world: people who were and still are a source of great inspiration.

 

History is littered with men who promised deliverance, and dealt only death and destruction, and if people cannot rid themselves of someone like Robert Mugabwe, what chance a maniac in control of a vast war-machine like Hitler?

 

I think the following sites say it louder in pictures than I can say it in words:-

 

http://www.walckerorgel.de/gewalcker.de/mp3_naziorgel.htm

 

http://www.walckerorgel.de/gewalcker.de/PD...lel_walcker.pdf

 

 

Be sure to listen to the rather chilling mp3

 

MM

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Hello! Nice topic, could have appeared in a German forum!!!

 

<snip>

 

The post-war music mostly carries a sort of penitence atmosphere. When already after WW I artists refused to paint or compose idylls, much more of that attitude was present after WW II.

In the music, there was a nearly complete absence of triads, and in those decades much of the music may have served fine as a valve for the public's emotions.

 

 

Ah, I wondered about this...

 

I've met my share of Germans, and even to this day it seems there is a sort of national embarassment about WWII. I myself am mostly German and Jewish, but my ancestors arrived in 1737, so I don't have the close connexion. I am usually hesitant to discuss the issue, since I know it is still a sensitive subject, so thank you for being willing to give us some ideas about it from a German viewpoint.

 

I think of Schroeder's early work - things like Prelude and Fugue on “Christ lag in Todesbanden” ... it sounds much more akin to late-romantic music (almost like Reger in places). IIRC that was published in 1929, so it was well in advance of WWII and a number of years after WWI. Already with Sonate 1, though, we have quartal harmony, and the romanticism has begun to disappear.

 

One composer who seems to have worked through his "penitence" is Harald Genzmer - many of his works are quite joyful and even playful. The last I heard he was still living (and writing music!) even at the age of 96 or 97 (he was born in 1909). I've explored some of his music written for other instruments, and it is very interesting also.

 

I mentioned Raphael in an earlier post - he was very grieved by the actions of his government, and actually left the country for a time. While his music does show the anguish he felt, it doesn't stay there for long - much of his output is very listenable.

 

Best Regards,

 

-G

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Ah, I wondered about this...

 

I've met my share of Germans, and even to this day it seems there is a sort of national embarassment about WWII. I myself am mostly German and Jewish, but my ancestors arrived in 1737, so I don't have the close connexion. I am usually hesitant to discuss the issue, since I know it is still a sensitive subject, so thank you for being willing to give us some ideas about it from a German viewpoint.

 

Thanks for your thoughts!

Well, I could lighten my burden for myself, as I'm Austrian, and they tend to use the "we were victims, too"-excuse, but....

 

Regarding this "penitence" term - the word is maybe not the best choice - I was thinking of a phrase by Anton Heiller (1923-79), which he wrote in an article in 1950 - I'll try a translation:

 

"The language, which is demanded by today's mankind, is less a powerful, pathethic or a devotionally regarding and sweet one, but merely a clear, harsh, all misery and distress of the time reflecting and awakening language, which is, first of all, uncompromisingly true."

 

"Die Sprache, die der heutigen Menschheit not tut, ist weniger eine machtvolle, pathetische oder fromm betrachtende und süsse, vielmehr eine klare, herbe, auf alle Not und Bedrängnis der Zeit eingehende, aufrüttelnde Sprache, die vor allem kompromisslos wahr ist." (Anton Heiller: "Neue Kirchenmusik", Musica orans II/1950/4, 5, p.16)

 

Perhaps one has to add - as we already talked about Hindemith's humour - that Heiller was a real Viennese person - you know, on their central cemetery, there is that legendary sepultural museum (great site!)... I mean, though hilarious here and there, he was also melancholic, and his last larger work, the "Vesper" (1977) contains a WONDERFUL, nearly late romantic hymnus for the choir, and three interesting larger organ sections, but the last one extended with a coda with one of the most straining, at the same moment depressive and aggressive final chords I know in organ music.

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Has anyone heard (or heard of) Hans Ludwig Schilling's "Integration B-A-C-H" (1961)? I've got a recording of this on an old LP performed by Konrad Schuba - the score is available from Breitkopf, but I've never seen any other recordings of it. It's an interesting piece, IMHO.

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Thanks for your thoughts!

Well, I could lighten my burden for myself, as I'm Austrian, and they tend to use the "we were victims, too"-excuse, but....

 

Regarding this "penitence" term - the word is maybe not the best choice - I was thinking of a phrase by Anton Heiller (1923-79), which he wrote in an article in 1950 - I'll try a translation:

 

"The language, which is demanded by today's mankind, is less a powerful, pathethic or a devotionally regarding and sweet one, but merely a clear, harsh, all misery and distress of the time reflecting and awakening language, which is, first of all, uncompromisingly true."

 

"Die Sprache, die der heutigen Menschheit not tut, ist weniger eine machtvolle, pathetische oder fromm betrachtende und süsse, vielmehr eine klare, herbe, auf alle Not und Bedrängnis der Zeit eingehende, aufrüttelnde Sprache, die vor allem kompromisslos wahr ist." (Anton Heiller: "Neue Kirchenmusik", Musica orans II/1950/4, 5, p.16)

 

Perhaps one has to add - as we already talked about Hindemith's humour - that Heiller was a real Viennese person - you know, on their central cemetery, there is that legendary sepultural museum (great site!)... I mean, though hilarious here and there, he was also melancholic, and his last larger work, the "Vesper" (1977) contains a WONDERFUL, nearly late romantic hymnus for the choir, and three interesting larger organ sections, but the last one extended with a coda with one of the most straining, at the same moment depressive and aggressive final chords I know in organ music.

 

I think this is a wonderful quote from Heiller, and it really does explain the reasons behind such acerbic music. I've tried a translation myself, trying to preserved the idea rather than a direct translation.... it makes more sense in German, but I think it might be better expressed in English thus:

 

 

The [musical] language demanded by today's culture does not so much rely on pathos, sweetness or devotion, but is more properly clear and harsh, which awakens and reflects the uncompromising truth of the distress and misery of our times.

 

I've taken some liberties, but I think that is the gist of what he is saying... it certainly makes sense to me.

 

I've noticed that much of the organ music from the Communist era and from behind the Iron Curtain also has a certain hardness/coldness to it - no doubt a reflection of the diffcult lives the composers were living.

 

BR,

 

-G

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I've noticed that much of the organ music from the Communist era and from behind the Iron Curtain also has a certain hardness/coldness to it - no doubt a reflection of the diffcult lives the composers were living.

 

 

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

 

 

Mmmm!

 

Well now, certain composers led a very priviliged life in the communist era; among them the Ukranian (?) Georgi Mushel, in spite of him being farmed out to Uzbekistan from Moscow, as one of the communist pioneers who sought to bring good (Russian) music to Central Asia.

 

The performing arts were actually valued by the communists, and circus-people did rather well, with one of the highest paid performers being a clown!

 

The Russian sphere of influence was obviously very strong, with the strong rythmic modernity of Prokofiev to remind them of the hammer and sickle.

 

The trouble is, the organ repertoire, being associated with church, was not exactly encouraged, and there are many stories of organists, church composers and even organ-builders being sent to jail. Petr Eben certainly suffered, and survived the concentration camps.

 

Thus, it's a bit patchy, but no one actually prevented anyone from writing anything musically, and some chose an indpendent path with great courage.

 

Polish organ-music is perhaps best represented by Marian Sawa; the music of whome I wouldn't describe as cold, but it is a bit catholic obsessed, as much of Poland tended to be. The catholic religion was the popular and almost acceptable mask of closet nationalism.

 

I don't know enough yet about the Baltic States to make much of a comment, whilst Lithuania is something of an unknown quantity to me.

 

Hungary has certainly produced some quite prolific organ-composers, but they do seem to have a style all their own, which I find rather difficult to comprehend much of the time.

 

However, in the former Czechoslovakia, there is an absolute treasure-chest of relatively unheard and possibly unknown music, but it is very difficult to pin it down and establish categories, because there aren't any!

 

Being a composer in communist CZ meant being quite well paid and comfortably off, so long as one toed the party-line. Hence, over 2,000 musical compositions were written during the period of the communist regime; not all of it exactly first-division.

 

However, from a country which produced such outstanding composers as Dvorak, Smetana, Janacek, Suk, Foester and Martinu, we might expect great things somewhere along the line, and in so far as the organ is concerned, we are in luck.

 

Everyone probably knows at least some of Petr Eben's organ works, which I would not describe as warm; his style rather ascetic and rythmic. Maybe this is what we have in mind when we think of a typical "communist era" composer, but in so far as the former Czechoslovakia is concerned, the evidence suggests otherwise. That said, some of his choral music has a surprisingly "Anglican" feel to it: perhaps as a result of his time in the UK, and his association with the Royal Northern College of Music.

 

However, it is worth repeating names I have mentioned previously, in the form of several important composers for the organ.

 

I don't know enough about Kilcka, except that he wroter a quiet Regeresque set of variations on the "Wenceslas theme," but as I can't bring to mind his exact dates and I'm too lazy to find out immediately, he may pre-date the communist years.

 

Wiedermann is the most obvious "dark horse," and from the bits I have heard, I have been very impressed.

 

Some of his music for soprano and organ is just ravishingly beautiful, and you can find clips of some of his works in the links provided, where you have to click on the little red quavers to hear them, if they are on the Musica Bona sites.

 

I don't know if the work is completed, but there are two superb movements of a double concerto for organ and harpsichord, written by Robert Mimra, which I believe is a truly outstanding and highly lyrical work of great beauty.

 

Again, a link is provided, and this really is a "must hear."

 

Klement Slavicky is certainly my favourite for a variety of reasons, and his organ music has gained some exposure; largely in America. He was also the composer of an absolutely stunning Piano "Toccata" which is a real showcase piece for pianistic virtuosity. He also suffered, and was an outcast from the communist party machine; surviving as best he could from clergy handouts, and the fact that his wife took a cleaning-job to make ends meet.

 

Remarkable among his output for organ, are the "Frescoes" and the "Ecce homo," in addition to the infamous piano work mentioned above.

 

Anyway, here are a few links which give a taste of this music, and I suspect that the last description of it would be "cold."

 

http://www.haydnhouse.com/organ_loft.htm (Klement Slavicky "Frescoes no.3) (Scroll down a fair way to find the mp3)

 

http://www.musicabona.com/catalog/UP0059-2.html.en (Wiedermann - "Let me go there" - click on thew two quavers for music samples)

 

http://www.musicabona.com/catalog/RD1369.html.enJ - Widermann - Jesu, Life of My Soul

 

http://www.freemusic.cz/mimra/kapela_mp3.html -- robert mimra (Organ & harpischord double concerto.....2 movements fully downloadable in their entirety in mp3 format).

 

MM

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