J.S. Bach and Franz Liszt – Bach and Liszt Organ Music / Richter

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful classical recording with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Some audiophiles buy organ records to show off their subwoofers, and records like this can do that, but records this good have musical qualities far beyond simple demonstrations of bass reproduction – with this pressing you can feel the cool air in the hall!
  • With this pressing you can feel the cool air in the hall, something no Telarc or audiophile organ record can offer
  • Karl Richter understands this music and makes it come alive in a way I’ve never heard any other musician manage to do – the Decca engineers are of course a big help too

For those of you who think technology marches on — which of course it does in some ways — this 1956 recording shows that they could capture the authentic sound of the real instrument with the equipment of the day. Maybe they could even capture it better back in those days. I certainly can’t think of a better organ record than this, and musically I don’t think there are too many organists in Richter’s class.

This vintage London pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performance, and feeling as if you are listening live in Geneva’s Victoria Hall, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides of This Outstanding Organ Recital Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1956
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the organ having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the hall

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on the Bach and Liszt Organ Recital

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the organ.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Liszt – Fantasia on B-A-C-H

Side Two

Bach – Chorale Prelude: Ich ruf’ zu fir, Herr Jesu Christ
Bach – Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor

Karl Richter – Conductor, Organ, Harpsichord

The German organist, harpsichordist and conductor, Karl Richter, studied with Rudolf Mauersberger, Karl Straube and Günther Ramin in Leipzig and received his degree in 1949. In the same year, he was appointed organist of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.

In 1951, Karl Richter started teaching at the Conservatory of music in Munich. He later had a professorship there and was cantor and organist at St. Mark’s Church.

During his first year in Munich, Karl Richter became conductor of the ‘Heinrich-Schütz-Kreis’, which had been founded at the end of World War II, and renamed it Münchener Bach-Chor (Munich Bach Choir) in 1954. Together with his newly established Bach Orchestra, Richter and the ensemble gave numerous concerts in Munich and performed regularly at the Bach-Tage Ansbach (Bach Days) until 1964. Within a short time, Karl Richter successfully used ‘his’ choir to make Bavaria a second home for the Leipzig musical tradition. According to the encyclopaedia ‘Music in Geschichte und Gegenwart’ (Music in the Past and Present), Protestant church music is indebted to the organist of St. Mark’s Karl Richter for his ‘exemplary work with Bach’s music’, which has been an important part of the musical life in Munich – ‘apart from the church as well’. This was a clear reference to the Munich Bach Choir’s achievements on the occasion of the 1959 Protestant Church Convention in Munich.

The sixties and the seventies were dominated by recordings and tours abroad that took the choir to USA, the Soviet Union, Japan and South America. The choir became internationally renowned at the same Karl Richter was acclaimed for his interpretations of J.S. Bach’s music, both as solo harpsichordist and accompanist.

Over the years, Karl Richter built up a broad repertoire with the Münchener Bach-Chor that included choral works by Heinrich Schütz, J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, W.A. Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Max Reger as well as 20th-century composers. J.S. Bach’s B minor Mass (BWV 232) alone was performed 90 times and the St. John Passion (BWV 245).

In February 1981, Karl Richter died of a heart attack at the age of 54. It was a sudden end to his work with the Münchener Bach-Chor, which had lasted almost 30 years. The choir was said to be Karl Richter’s true instrument in many obituaries.

Today (1992), the Münchener Bach-Chor is conducted by Hanns-Martin Schneidt and is still an important part of the concert life in Munich.


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