Middelschulte, Wilhelm



Organ virtuoso and composer; born near Dortmund, Westphalia. He was fond of music from boyhood, and at the age of twelve had attained sufficient knowledge of the organ to play the church service. Ill health, however, delayed a regular course in music for several years, but before he was twenty he entered the Royal Academy of Church Music, Berlin, where for several years he studied, his teachers being August Haupt in organ and theory, August Loeschhorn in piano, Dr. Julius Alsleben in history and conducting, and Franz Commer. While still a student he became Haupt's assistant at the organ of the Parochial Church, and associate teacher in the Academy. In 1888 he succeeded Rust as organist of St. Lucas Church in Berlin, retaining this post until 1891, when he came to the United States to accept that of organist and choir-director of the Cathedral of the Holy Name, Chicago. Shortly before his departure from Germany he played by invitation the memorial service to Emperor Friedrich III. at Bornstedt. At the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, he gave three recitals, and in 1894 played with the Thomas Orchestra. He was immediately appointed official organist of the orchestra, and has since appeared with them frequently as soloist, playing many of the best works for organ and orchestra, among them his own concerto in A minor, which has been pronounced by Guilmant "a magnificent work." Under Theodore Thomas' direction he was organist of the Cincinnati May Festival. At present he is organist of St. James' Roman Catholic Church, Chicago. He is connected with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Milwaukee, as professor of organ and of musical theory, and has been one of the directors of that institution from its beginning.


Mr. Middelschulte's reputation as an organist is cosmopolitan. He has appeared in the principal cities of the United States and also in Germany, where his playing has elicited the highest praises from both critics and musicians. He possesses a phenomenal musical memory, playing all his recital programs without notes, a proceeding unusual among organists. He is an ardent admirer of Bach's works, and is conceded to be the greatest living interpreter of them. He has composed chiefly for the organ, his published works being a Passacaglia in D minor, pronounced by the eminent theorist, Bernhard Ziehn, to be worthy of mention beside that of Bach; canons and on the choral, Vater unser in Himmelreich; concerto on a theme by Sebastian Bach; canonical fantaisie on Bach; fugue on four themes by J. S. Bach; also a toccata, for which he has received congratulations from Guilmant. His unpublished works include Variations and Finale on an original theme; cadenzas to two of Handel's and one of Rheinberger's concertos; and an etude for pedals alone, Perpetual Motion. Mr. Middelschulte has been twice represented on the programs of the German Society of Tonal Art, of which Richard Strauss is president. His compositions combine the modern resources of advanced musical theory with strict classical forms, and are considered among the most difficult works for the organ.


Mr. Middelschulte's influence on his pupils and friends is of the highest, oth as a man and as a musician. His wife, formerly Miss Annette Musser, is a gifted and cultivated musician, for some years before her marriage an organist, pianist and teacher prominent in Memphis, Tennessee. She is at present the efficient organist of St. Paul's Universalist Church, Chicago.