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Helmut WALCHA (1907-1991)
Chorale Preludes - Volumes 1-3 (1954/63/66)
Full tracklist at end of review.
Wolfgang Rübsam, Delbert Disselhorst (organ)
rec. 2011
NAXOS 8.572910-12 [67:01 + 59:21 + 55:03]

Were Helmut Walcha's name not so well-known as a performer-advocate of Johann Sebastian Bach, the inattentive listener dipping in randomly to these discs could almost be forgiven for assuming him to be some neglected contemporary of the great composer. Walcha's four volumes of Chorale Preludes, the first three of which have, in quick succession, become available on Naxos, pay homage to the composer whose music he spent a life studying and performing. Though many of the harmonies reflect their twentieth-century genesis and Walcha's early familiarity with Max Reger, in form and especially spirit these recitals are very much from a long bygone era.
From the beginning Walcha's chorale preludes have been used for pedagogic purposes, and that should perhaps be borne in mind by anyone considering buying one, and especially all, of these CDs. Only the doughtiest of organophiles will be able to sit through three or four volumes - several dozen preludes - in one sitting! Given the overall uniformity of form and expression within these pieces - short, generally sober, even-paced, reflective - there is definitely an argument to be made for the purchase of only one volume, although a feeling of deep relaxation is the worst that can come of such a course. The more adventurous will find their patience repaid by repeated audition, as Walcha's apparent simplicity of conception actually reveals a creative mind of uncommon clarity of expression.
Both Wolfgang Rübsam (b.1946) and Delbert Disselhorst (b.1942?) are erstwhile pupils of Walcha, which gives their interpretations a stamp of authority and authenticity. Whilst Rübsam has made countless CDs for Naxos, this is Disselhorst's debut. However, his comparative lack of recording experience is made up for by a very impressive CV of tours, projects and posts, and indeed there is no question of inferiority in his performance here. Both organists perform on the John Brombaugh Organ at the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois. They recorded volumes one and three at the same time, with the second done a few weeks later. The instrument itself is barely a decade old and thus benefits from modern technology, giving a satisfyingly rounded tone in a sympathetic acoustic which has been very well captured by the engineers. Rudolf Zuiderveld's notes from volume one are recycled for the later two, but rightly so, as they are interesting and well written.
Collected reviews and contact at

see also reviews by Hannah Parry-Ridout of Volume 1 and Volume 2
Helmut WALCHA (1907-1991)
Chorale Preludes - vol.1
No.1: Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland [2:09]
No.2: O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf [1:41]
No.3: Macht hoch die Tür [2:25]
No.4: Mit Ernst, o Menschenkinder [3:16]
No.5: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ [2:09]
No.6: Den die Hirten lobten sehre [1:39]
No.7: Frohlich soll mein Herze springen [1:14]
No.8: Zu Bethlehem geboren [1:34]
No.9: Weicht ihr Berge, fallt ihr Hügel [1:36]
No.10: Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen [3:14]
No.11: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort [3:34]
No.12: Herr, nun selbst den Wagen halt [1:38]
No.13: Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein [3:21]
No.14: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott [2:41]
No.15: Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ [2:03]
No.16: Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein [2:17]
No.17: Es ist das Heil uns kommen her [2:29]
No.18: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [3:59]
No.19: Ist Gott für mich, so trete [2:31]
No.20: Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten [3:22]
No.21: Mitten wir im Leben sind [3:16]
No.22: Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende [3:39]
No.23: Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin [3:35]
No.24: Nun sich der Tag geendet hat [2:02]
No.25: Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit [3:19]
rec. 23-24 October 2011, First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Illinois. DDD
NAXOS 8.572910 [64:53]  

Chorale Preludes
- vol.2
No.1: Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich [2:39]
No.2: Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her [1:31]
No.3: Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn [2:39]
No.4: O süsser Herre Jesu Christ [3:29]
No.5: Gottes Sohn ist kommen [1:57]
No.6: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [3:15]
No.7: O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht [1:40]
No.8: Lobt Gott den Herrn, ihr Heiden all [2:47]
No.9: O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross [4:04]
No.10: O armer Sünder [1:58]
No.11: Jesu, deine Passion [3:28]
No.12: Christ ist erstanden [2:24]
No.13: Mit Freuden zart zu dieser Fahrt [5:47]
No.14: Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist [2:40]
No.15: Heiliger Geist, du Tröster mein [1:30]
No.16: Such, wer da will, ein ander Ziel [3:05]
No.17: Lobet den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren [3:00]
No.18: Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein [3:05]
No.19: Gott des Himmels und der Erden [2:01]
No.20: Der Tag ist hin, mein Jesu, bei mir bleibe [5:11]
rec. National Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota, 2-5 August 2010. DDD
NAXOS 8.572911 [58:10]  

Chorale Preludes - vol.3
No.1: Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen [3:33]
No.2: Ihr lieben Christen, freut euch nun [1:47]
No.3: Wie soll ich dich empfagen [1:49]
No.4: Ich steh an deiner Krippe hier [2:34]
No.5: O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig [3:19]
No.6: Christe, du Lamm Gottes [2:26]
No.7: Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ [1:14]
No.8: Du grosser Schmerzensmann [2:05]
No.9: Jesus Christus, unser Heiland [2:34]
No.10: Gelobt sei Gott im höchsten Thron [2:25]
No.11: Auf, auf, mein Herz mit Freuden [2:40]
No.12: Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist [1:51]
No.13: Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir [1:49]
No.14: Jauchzt, alle Lande, Gott zu Ehren [2:16]
No.15: Nun danket all und bringet Ehr [2:06]
No.16: Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten [3:29]
No.17: Vater unser im Himmelreich [1:39]
No.18: Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt [2:47]
No.19: Mein Leben ist ein Pilgrimstand [1:47]
No.20: In Gottes Namen fahren wir [0:45]
No.21: Mein erst Gefühl sei Preis und Dank [1:32]
No.22: All Morgen ist ganz frisch und neu [1:37]
No.23: Mein schönste Zier und Kleinod bist [2:34]
No.24: Der Mond ist aufgegangen [3:04]
Delbert Disselhorst (organ)
rec. National Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota, 2-5 August 2010. DDD
NAXOS 8.572912 [53:42]