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was E. Power Biggs good?

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  • was E. Power Biggs good?

    Hi, I'm new to this forum. I'm a longtime classical guitarist and huge E. Power Biggs fan. I was wondering if in the organ community Mr. Biggs was well-respected. Is he pretty much the best organist for the Bach fugues?

    thanks in advance,
    Stephen Odom

  • #2
    Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

    I don't think anyone can deny Biggs' influence on the organ world nor do I believe that his interpretation of Bach was anything less than exemplary. Although he is often credited ( or blamed) for the neo-baroque craze in organ building, and is known for his interpretation of the music of that period, he was equally at home with the French masters.

    Besides, can you think of a better name for an organist than E. Power Biggs?

    Now a question for you. Who is your favorite classical guitarist?

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    • #3
      Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

      Charlie Minor had a better name. His real name was C Sharpe (from his mother) Minor. No kidding.

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      • #4
        Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

        Yeah, that IS the best name for an organist. I remember when I picked up one of his CD's and showed all my friends his name because I liked it so much.

        The reason I ask about Mr. Biggs is because my favorite guitarist is Christopher Parkening. I'm a bit of an oddball in the guitar community because although Parkening has had great pop success, some other guitarists think he's overrated (I just can't understand that. The guy is incredible and the best ever!). I thought that an organist whose name was "E. Power Biggs" and had his album in a store in the mall might be a little gimmicky; the organ community might think he's a sellout or something. I'm glad that that's not the case.

        Last night I went for a walk and took my "Bach favorites" CD along. I was sore from smiling so much because that fugue "The Great 542" is UNBELIEVABLE. It's SO larger than life, it's so extreme!! It's a real mind-blowing piece. It sounds incredibly difficult. Is that true? Can any of y'all on the forum play it? If so, I'd love to hear it! I think Mr. Biggs' recording is one of my favorite recordings anywhere of anything! Please tell me your thoughts on this crazy piece!

        stephen

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        • #5
          Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

          Biggs good? Maybe if an intravenous drip of amphetamines were taken to stay awake!
          I find him tremendously boring and trying to listen too.
          On the other hand, Virgil Fox would tour playing three hours of Bach and no body would leave the concert halls until he quit playing. He is by far the best!
          Anthony Newman is another one who brings the classical organ to life. But E. power Biggs, not a snowballs chance in hell!

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          • #6
            Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

            Craig R. Whitney seems to think so. In his book, ALL THE STOPS, he devotes an entire chapter to Biggs. While Biggs was a very fine organist in his own right, Virgil Fox was the ultimate master in the interpretation of Bach's organ works and turning people ON to them. I will never forget the first time I heard Virgil play the "Bach Gamut" at St Benedicts Church in Highland Park, Michigan on the Rodgers "Black Beauty." I cannot think of enough superlatives to describe it. Ted Worth's recitals on that instrument, in that venue, were equally astounding. Those were truly the good old days. A wonderful book on Virgil Fox, based on Ted Worth's memoirs, entitled THE DISH, has been written by Richard Torrence and Marshall Yeager.Hopefully, REFERENCE RECORDINGS, will issue Virgil's recording of the Bach Gamut on the glorious Ruffati pipe organ and St Mary's in San Franciso.

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            • #7
              Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

              I once played some Virgil Fox on my stereo.

              The musical(?) notes were all muddeled together, and the organ registration stunk, I thought my expensive stereo was destroyed.

              Then I put some E. Power Biggs and George Wright back on and all was wonderfull.

              Threw the Virgil Fox away.

              Point : "Funny how every one gets to have their own opinion" !

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              • #8
                Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                From what I have heard and as a non-organist, I really do not care very much for Biggs' Bach playing. My first organ recording was of Biggs' but I rarely listen to it. I am hesitant to say Virgil fox was the "best" Bach performer but he did what he did better than anyone else. If you are looking for the "best" or "greatest" I don't think it needs to be limited to Biggs v. Fox. Alot of people forget Marcel Dupre now because few of his recordings have been released on CD, but during his career he was considered to be simply "the best", and excelled not only in performance but in composition and improvisation. The same goes for Jeanne Demessieux, the first international woman organ virtuoso who was considered by some to possess a virtuosity without equal at that time (50's and 60's). But do you really need to chose?

                dan

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                • #9
                  Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                  My point exactly.

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                  • #10
                    Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                    The first volume (of two) called "The Bach Gamut" is available on CD from Reference REcordings (REF 101) as well as a collection of pieces from the Command Classics recordings from the ReDiscovery Recordings label. There was also the rediscovery of many never-released recordings of Virgil at Riverside and some will be remastered and released on CD.

                    dan

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                    • #11
                      Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                      Fox, of course, played Bach in the Romantic style with Romantic registrations. Exciting at times, easy on the ears? Yes, but for my taste, his interpretations, as masterful as they were, sometimes did not serve Bach well.

                      Biggs was beyond reproach in this regard.

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                      • #12
                        Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                        For me, Helmut Walcha was far better than Biggs in this respect. He just played so passionately.

                        dan

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                        • #13
                          Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                          I realy like to here Carlo Curly play, just about any composer, not just Bach.

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                          • #14
                            Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                            On that note, from what I have heard of Carlo Curley the influence of Virgil Fox is very apparent. I wonder if some of the reason why people have problems with Virgil Fox's recordings is from the fact that recording technology was not so advanced as it is now, so alot of the sound is distorted (especially the loudest parts). You can hear it when he is playing the 1st chorale of Franck (The Art of Virgil Fox Vol. 3) and at one part the sound is so distorted it becomes indecipherable. I never heard this criticism in regard to a live performance. In general, Biggs never got that loud, so the recording has less distortion. Could this have anything to do with it?

                            dan

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                            • #15
                              Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                              They must have put the mikes in the chambers for Virgil's Riverside recordings. Louder is not necessarily better.

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