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Dr. Schweitzer's Hospital Fund

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Albert Schweitzer - The Musician

Schweitzer at the organ.Albert Schweitzer’s earliest organ lessons were with Eugen Munch in Mulhouse, through whom he was introduced to the music of J. S. Bach. Musically, one of the most significant events in his life was his first meeting with the Parisian organist Charles-Marie Widor in 1893, at the age of eighteen. His private lessons with Widor and his acquaintance with the Cavaille-Coll organ in the church of St. Sulpice were of fundamental importance to his later musical development.

In his writings on music the most significant early publication was Jean-Sebastian Bach, le musicien-poete, begun in 1902 and published in French in 1905. Begun very much at the instigation of Widor, it was initially intended to be a study of the Chorale Preludes of J. S. Bach. 1908 saw a longer, German version, with an English translation published in 1911.

1912, the year before his first departure for Africa, saw the publication of the first volume of the Widor-Schweitzer edition of the Bach Organ Works (Preludes and Fugues of the Youthful Period). Schweitzer was at this time Organist of the Societe J.S.Bach in Paris.

His fame as an organist led to many concert tours across Europe, and the proceeds from these recitals were an important part of the income for his work in Lambarene.

His playing style is preserved on the famous recordings made in 1935 (London) and 1936 (Strasbourg) for HMV and in a later American recording series in 1952. The London recordings, of both Chorale Preludes and Preludes and Fugues, took place at the church of All Hallows by the Tower, whilst in Strasbourg he used the Andreas Silbermann organ of 1766 in the church of St. Aurelie, which he himself had helped to restore. This recording also included music by Cesar Franck.

Michael Harris, Organist and Choirmaster at St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.

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