Hugo Distler

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German organist, composer, and teacher

  • 1908 born in Nuremberg
  • 1927-1931 attended the Leipzig Conservatory, where he switched from conducting and piano to composition and organ on the advice of his teacher. He studied with Ramin, Hogner, and Grabner, who in turn had studied counterpoint with Reimann. He was strongly affected by Bach's continuing influence in Leipzig, and by the Orgelbewegung, a movement started by Albert Schweizer that sought to return to the organ sound of the German Baroque and pre-Baroque.
  • 1931 became organist at St. Jacobi in Lübeck. This was when his most fruitful years as a composer began.
  • 1933 married, and that same year joined the Nazi party in order to keep his employment.
  • 1935 oversaw the restoration of the Jakobikirche’s organs. When they were finished, he wrote a book about them.
  • 1937 moved to Stuttgart to teach at the Württemberg Hochschule für Musik. This was where he first began to encounter state antagonism to his work.
  • 1938 narrowly avoided the denunciation of his work as ‘degenerate art’ at the music festival in Düsseldorf.
  • 1940 succeeded Kurt Thomas as teacher of composition, organ and choral conducting at the Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Musik in Charlottenburg, Berlin. Here Distler, who was "religious and sensitive" according to Oxford Music online, became more and more depressed by the stress of aerial attacks, overwork, pressure from the state, the threat of conscription into the army, the deaths of friends, and the increasing conflict between his religion and the Nazi party.
  • 1942 Distler committed suicide in Berlin.

For details, see the Wikipedia article on Hugo Distler.

Also refer to Oxford Music Online's biography of Hugo Distler:

List of Organ Works[edit]

Click to sort by opus number, title, or year of composition or publication
Opus Title Year
Op. 8 no. 1 Partita: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland 1933
Op. 8 no. 2 Partita: Wachet auf, ruft uns dei Stimme 1934-1935
Op. 8 no. 3 Kleine Orgelchoral Bearbeitungen 1938
Op. 18 no. 1 Dreissig Speilstucke fur die Kleinorgel 1938
Op. 18 no. 2 Orgelsonate (Trio) 1938-1939
Op. ?? Title year
Op. ?? Title year

Background and General Perspectives on Performing Distler Organ Works[edit]

From Wikipedia: "he is known mostly for his sacred choral music and as a champion of Neo-Baroque music...His music is polyphonic and frequently melismatic, often based on the pentatonic scale. His works remain "tonally anchored," while at the same time they "reveal an innovative harmonic sense.""

From Oxford Music Online: "The basis of Distler’s work was the rediscovery of old forms and genres, and his highly effective word-painting evolved from the music of Schütz...The organ pieces are similarly new in principle; something of their originality came from Distler’s work with Baroque organs, primarily in north Germany. In both vocal and organ works the distinctive features of Distler’s style are its pregnant rhythms and its harmonic boldness within a tonal setting."

Distler's work contains elaborate counterpoint, 20th century sounds in a Baroque setting, relatively tonal music, and simpler pedal lines.

Registration and Organs[edit]

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See the footnote in the "Notes" section at the bottom of the page[1]

Fingering and Pedaling[edit]

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Articulation and Phrasing[edit]

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Tempo and Meter[edit]

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Scores and Editions[edit]

30 Pieces, Opus 18 no. 1, on imslp:

Kleine Orgelchoral Bearbeitungen, Opus 8 no. 3, on imslp:


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Free Online[edit]

Suite from 30 Pieces for Organ, Opus 18 no. 1, played by Christiano Rizzoto:

Partita from Opus 8 no. 3, "Jesus Christus unser Heiland der von uns den Gotteszorn wandt," played by Mark Bell:

Pay to Listen[edit]

Organ Sonata, Opus 18 no. 2:

Other Resources[edit]

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  1. This footnote was entered in the "Registration and Organs" section

This space is for automatic insertion of footnotes. To enter a footnote from anywhere in the article, start by typing the tag <ref> and then enter the text, and type the tag </ref> to end the footnote. The footnote will then appear in this "Notes" section automatically.