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Fritz Heitmann

(1891-1953)

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- Berliner Dom, 1938

- Eosander Chapel, Berlin, 1938

- Crypt Chapel, Berliner Dom, 1950

Fritz Heitmann was a German organist. He was first taught by his father who was also an organist and then went to the Hamburger Konservatorium für Musik. From 1909-1911 he was the student of Karl Straube, Max Reger, and Josef Pembaur at the Leipziger Konservatorium. He was the cathedral organist at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Schleswig from 1912-1914, then from 1918-1932 at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin. In 1919 he became director of the Sing-Akadamie in Berlin. From 1932 until his death he was cathedral organist at Berlin Cathedral.

 

Numerous concerts resulted in him travelling around Europe and to The United States of America.

 

From 1923 he was organ professor at the Berliner Akademie für Schul- und Kirchenmusik. Later he also taught at the Sternschen Konservatorium or the Hochschule für Musik. He also founded and headed the Berliner Motettenvereinigung.

 

Heitmann was considered a great Bach interpreter. In 1938 he recorded “Dritter Teil Clavierübung” by J. S. Bach for the Telefunken label on the Arp Schnitger organ of Schloss Charlottenburg. In 1950 he recorded one of the first recordings of Bach's Kunst der Fuge for the same label.

 

Like the Charlottenburg Schnitger organ the Sauer organ of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche was destroyed in 1943 during bombing raids. But there are ten recordings on shellac records from 1929 and 1930 on which the sound of this organ played by Fritz Heitmann was recorded.

(Translated from the German Wikipedia)

A note on the recordings:

Eosander Chapel, 1938

I'm so fortunate to be able to present the recording with Heitmann playing the Schnitger organ at the Eosander Chapel at Charlotten-burg Castle which were destroyed during the war in 1944 and this might be the only sound document if this instrument.

Heitmann recorded the “Dritter Teil” in just one day more precisely on September 1st, which is quite a task recording 46 mins of 78rpms in one day, taking into account the big limitations in being able to cut and splice takes together. The origin of this release is from a LP released in 1954. The sound is unclear, dark and distant. It might be due to the transfer from the 78rpms to the LP done back in 1954 or the condition of the LP used for the digital transfer.


I’ve found a another transfer of the “Duetto” done probably from the original 78rpms, which is much more clear and precise. I’ve located the original 78rpms in the Danish State Library, and will try to see what condition these are in and maybe have them transferred to replace these.
Here you can find some interesting photos, information and the transfer of “Duetto”:
http://www.arpschnitger.nl/sberlineo.html

 

Berliner Dom, 1938 and 1950

On May 19th in 1950 Fritz Heitmann recorded parts of J. S. Bach’s Kunst der Fuge in the Gruft-Kapelle in the Berliner Dom. This recording was afterwards released on an LP on the German Telefunken label. Again we are faced with an impressive display of organ playing. This recording was made in just one day, and that required quite an amount of work and technical precision in a time when cutting and splicing was still very limited as with the Eosander-recording. I have maintained the non-standard numbering of the contrapunctus, which Heitmann uses.


Berliner Dom was heavily damaged in 1944, and among other things the entire dome was destroyed. A temporary roof was set up in 1953 and until then the cathedral was unusable. Church services and other activities were held in the crypt under the cathedral. Historically speaking this recording must have been very emotional. It was recorded in 1950, so it was made when the cathedral was still in a terrible condition with much damage due to weather and vandalism.
The organ used in this recording is the Alexander Schuke organ built in 1946 designed by Heitmann himself. You can find more information on the organ at the Berliner Dom-website:

https://www.berlinerdom.de/musik/musikangebote/orgeln-am-berliner-dom/schuke-orgel/

 

I can also present a recording from 1938 with Heitmann from Berliner Dom of the Sauer organ before it was heavily damaged.

 

I would like to thank former cathedral organist in Aarhus (DK), Anders Riber who has made the transfer of ”Kunst der Fuge”-recording, 1950. Credits to the now closed The European Archive for the "Dritter Teil”-recording, 1938, and finally thanks to Claus Byrith for providing the Berliner Dom-recordings, 1938.