Moscow mourns its foremost organist

Harry Grodberg, solo organist of the Moscow Philharmonic for 60 years, has died at 88.

More than anyone, he re-established the art of organ playing in a secular republic.

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  • “More than anyone, he re-established the art of organ playing in a secular republic.”

    Mind you, the organ didn’t play a huge role in Russia when it was an officially Orthodox Christian monarchy: musical instruments (excepting bells and, in some traditions, drums) are generally forbidden in Eastern Orthodox church music.

    Some Orthodox congregations in the West, as their immigrant members assimilated over the years, have added organs. I’m still mildly scandalized whenever I encounter one.

    (I keep thinking: You folks have this marvelous long tradition of sacred music of your own! Don’t adulterate it!)

    • You are right as far as it goes for Orthodox church music. However, concert hall at the Moscow Conservatory of music and Tchaikovsky concert hall have big organs, and, besides, services are held in Catholic cathedral in Moscow. Also concert halls in other big cities have organs and organ music is rather popular. Harry Grodberg was a well-known musician even in the Soviet Union. Besides giving concerts in Moscow, he played organ in Baltic republics. He often played in the Dome Cathedral of Riga in Latvia.

    • In 1982, Gosconcert invited me to the USSR for 10 organ recitals in 14 days. When I arrived in Irkutz I found Harry Grodberg had arrived to play my two recitals. However, my name was on the posters, so I stayed and Harry flew back to Moscow, but not before we had had an uproarious meal together!

  • In 1982, Gosconcert booked to play 10 organ recitals in 14 days. When I arrived in Irkutz to play two recitals, I found Harry Grodberg had also arrived to play them as well. But my name was on the posters, so I stayed to play them, and Harry flew back to Moscow, but not before we had an uproarious meal together!!

  • I was listening to him for the last time in Klaipeda in the new church with one of the best new organ in Europe. It was a tremendously touching concert because everybody knew – it was the last one. We will allways remember You, God bless your soul!

  • I heard him play in Moscow in 1990 during a school exchange visit.
    My Russian colleague seemed to know numerous musicians and introduce me to Schnittge Genaddhi R too, both unforgettable experiences .

  • All my life is full of recollections of his concerts in Tchaikovsky Hall….Started going there at 15, alone…
    It was always the greatest enjoyment….Bach, organ and Harry Grodberg are inseparable for me!

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