Carl Weinrich, the American organist, is scheduled to give a program of early organ music at the Germanic Musecum tonight. This means that the Bach organ is about to undergo its christening at the hands of great master of the instrument
Up till now, Weinrich has been known to the public through these Musicraft discs, recorded on the squeaky, piping little "Practorius" organ at Princeton. Working with that tiny instrument that seems almost like a toy, Weinrich has consistently produced the best organ records on the market. His record of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, for instance, easily surpasses all of the D minor, for instance, casily surpasses all of the other four versions, three of which are recorded on large-scale organs, and one of which is in an opulent orchestral transcription. Certainly if there is any organist in the country who has spark enough in his fingers to put the Germanic Museum organ through its baptism of fire and make the rafters ring with really gorgeous organ sonorities, it is Weinrich.
His program, classifiable as a lesson in early organ music, leafs through representative compositions from the works of three generations of organisits--Sweelinck, Buxtehude, and J. S. Bach. Sweelinck, the wonder of his age, who toured Europe triumphantly performing on the organ and clavichord, has long been relegated to a musty pigeonhole in the history of music. Musicologists credit him with having been the first organist to use the pedal independently, as a separate voice in a fugue, Sweelinck's own editors claim for him the distinction of having "founded" instrumental music, but rarely if ever is his fine body of work treated to a fresh, non-pedantic hearing.
The same is true, to a lesser extent, of Bach's great idol and older contemporary, Dietrich Buxtehude. He has been so cozily dove-tailed as an "influence" that no one finds time to re-examine the traditional dictum and set him back on his pins as a composer in his own right. My personal feeling is that once exhumed, such a piece of Buxtehude's music as the Toccata in F that Weinrich is playing will be enjoyed by a good many people for its directness and simplicity of utterance, and a certain Germanic vigor, but that after a time, Buxtehude will return to the dust from whence he sprung, in the last judgment valuable only as an influence. Sweelinck, too, will prove to many that importance does not necessarily mean dullness, but will then creep back into his historic little cubby-hole, into that dictionary significance which is only one shelf above oblivion. But a recital including works by these men, work which if not memorable is at least fresh and sturdy, and vital to an understanding of the Bach tradition, should be noted down as a major event.
I do not have to go into verbosities about the greatness of the Bach music on the program--the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C major, the 5th Trio Sonata, and a group of Choral Preludes. They have ranked as works of genius ever since they were composed, and will continue to do so.
The controversy over Tchaikowski's music currently being waged in the letter-column of the Crimson threatens to engulf us all with its colossal profundities. No doubt it will all be very instructive to some historian of the future who will see in it symptoms of a crisis between the embittered disillusionment of the century and the last thwarted survivors of the age of progress. Two years' ago I was sufficiently interested to write a column on the "Tchaikowski Question." Today, with the world tottering about my head, the strains of "Moon-Love" or "Concerto for Two" crupting from every juke-box in the country, and a superior order of intellectuals debating the problem in higher epistolary fashion, I can only reiterate the main conclusions I came to then: that in my opinion the "Romco and Juliet" fantasy and the last three symphonies are great music, that the two concertos are not, that most of the ballets and tone-poems are second-rate, and that the words "superficial" and "over-sentimental" do not so much describe Tchaikowski's music as the way it is usually played.