Walter Kraft (Cologne, 9 June 1905 - Amsterdam, 9 May 1977) was a German organist and composer, best known for his remarkably long tenure (almost half a century, 1926-1972) at the Marienkirche, Lübeck.
During this tenure, Kraft, who had been a student of Paul Hindemith in Berlin, revived the practice of evening concerts of sacred works. Such concerts, collectively called Abendmusik, had been regularly given by his predecessors at the church, notably Dietrich Buxtehude and Franz Tunder; but they had ceased in 1810, mainly due to the dislocation caused to northern Germany by the Napoleonic wars.
Kraft made numerous records, usually for American labels, during the LP era — some of these have now re-emerged on CD — and as well as recording Handel's 12 organ concertos, he was the first person to commit to disc the entire solo organ output (or what was thought to be at the time the entire solo organ output) of Bach and Dieterich Buxtehude. His discography also included pieces by more obscure German baroque musicians such as Nikolaus Bruhns.
Like his younger contemporary Anton Heiller, Kraft also composed a fair amount (mostly organ music but also an oratorio called Christus), though as with Heiller, his fame as a performer completely upstaged his hopes of lasting renown as a creator. Once he retired in 1972 from the Marienkirche post, he apparently planned to write an opera, but never finished any such work.
He died along with 32 others when Amsterdam's Hotel Poland caught fire.
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