Walter Hilse dead at 81

January 7, 2023
Walter Hilse
Walter Hilse

Walter Hilse, organist and composer, died December 31, 2022. Born July 16, 1941, he grew up in Astoria, Queens, New York, and earned degrees in mathematics as well as in music from Columbia University, including a Ph.D. in musicology and an M.A. in composition. He studied organ with Nadie Boulanger, Maurice Duruflé, Vincent Persichetti, and Bronson Ragan.

As a solo performer he appeared throughout the United States, Europe, and the Far East, making tours of Sweden in 1990, 1994, and l995. He presented five solo organ recitals at New York City’s Alice Tully Hall, as well as several complete performances of Bach’s The Art of Fugue. He was a fellow of the American Guild of Organists and recently retired from the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.

Hilse’s compositions include over 80 art songs, an a cappella Mass for SATB chorus, over 20 anthems and psalm settings, a setting of various Sabbath-morning texts, compositions for solo organ, a piano suite, and numerous works for instrumental ensemble. He was awarded the Joseph H. Bearns Prize of Columbia University (1966) and the Choral Composition Prize of the Boston Chapter A.G.O. (1974). As a musicologist, he specialized in the work of Paul Hindemith and Christoph Bernhard, and was a regular contributor to The American Organist magazine. Hilse served as artist-in-residence at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church where he gave numerous recitals, associate organist at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, and organist for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, all of New York City, since 1996.

Walter Hilse is survived by his wife, Patricia (Pat).


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