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Helmut Walcha (October 27, 1907 in Leipzig, Germany – August 11, 1991 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany) was a blind German organist who specialized in the works of the Dutch and German baroque masters and is known for his recordings of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Born in Leipzig, Walcha was blinded at age 19 after vaccination for smallpox. Despite his disability, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory and became an assistant at the Thomaskirche to Günther Ramin, who was professor of organ at the conservatory and cantor at St. Thomas'. In 1929, Walcha accepted a position in Frankfurt am Main at the Friedenskirche and remained in Frankfurt for the rest of his life. From 1933 to 1938 he taught at the Hoch Conservatory. In 1938 he was appointed professor of organ at the Musikhochschule in Frankfurt and organist of the Dreikönigskirche in 1946. He retired from public performance in 1981.
Walcha recorded Bach's complete works twice, once in mono (1947–52), and again in stereo from 1956-71. This latter stereo cycle (released 10/09/2001), has been remastered, and repackaged in an economical collector's edition 12-CD box. This edition also contains the recording of his own conclusion of the last fugue of The Art of Fugue - previously unreleased.
Walcha's completion of the last fugue of The Art of Fugue was also recorded by his former pupil George Ritchie as part of Ritchie's recording of The Art of Fugue, released in 2010.
Walcha also composed for the organ. He published four volumes of original chorale preludes (published by C. F. Peters and recorded in part by, for example, Renate Meierjürgen) as well as arrangements for organ of orchestral works written by others.
He lectured on organ music and composition (illustrated by his own playing) at the Hoch Conservatory and the Frankfurt Musikhochschule. One other contribution to music scholarship is his attempted completion of the final (unfinished) fugue of The Art of Fugue.
Walcha taught many significant American organists of the twentieth century who travelled to Germany as Fulbright scholars: these include Robert Anderson, David Boe, Margaret Leupold Dickinson, Melvin Dickinson, Delbert Disselhorst, Paul Jordan, David Mulbury, Fenner Douglass, Jane Douglass, Grigg and Helen Fountain, Barbara Harbach, Charles Krigbaum, George Ritchie, Russell Saunders - all of whom became major teachers and performers after their studies abroad.
A section of the documentary film Desert Fugue is about Walcha, and explains how he memorised music part by part, and passed on this method of learning counterpoint to his pupils.Wide ThumbClearartFanartBanner User Comments