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was E. Power Biggs good?

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  • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

    Ok, I know I should not do this, but James' is an organ builder, and has an axe to grind , since he obviously builds trackers, and Fox hated most trackers, and James most definately implied that Fox would have been shoddy on a tracker

    The only concert of Fox that I ever saw was on a tracker, and no James, he was not shoddy at all.

    Next, Schwietzer was a johnny-come-lately to the Bach "as sublime" party, Mendelssohn was there long before.
    But actually, it is more fair to say that Bach is sublime to play; not always to listen to.

    I will say for Schweitzer that when he played BWV 565, he at least played it correctly, rhythm-wise, unlike the romantic slush merchants of today like Biggs, Fox, Herrick, Rogg, Walcha, Preston, Newman, and the Durufles (after listening to them, I wondered if either of them actually played the organ!).

    I doubt that any of them have actually counted out to where in the measure the mordent should occur!
    Some of them play the triplets properly, but I am sure that is just an accident.
    His Fantasy and Fugue in G minor? The only one I listen to, in spite of the horrible sounding instument it is played on.



    Oh, and James, about what Bach would be doing today:

    I do admit, he might be conducting (I wonder how he would conduct Shoenberg, Stravinsky, or Prokofiev) but give hime some credit for taste man! I doubt he would be conducting the Berlin.

    Then again -

    Bach sold his soul to the highest bidder, ususally royalty, so he might well be the conductor of the Berlin Phil, the LSO, or the Met.

    In any case he would be writing film scores and adverizing jingles, learning the synthesizers, the electonic organ, the electro-pneumatic machines.

    Hie might have some fond memories of the Shnitgers and the Silbermanns, hell, he might even be ab le to coax a decent sound of them- -god knows, no one else can! But he would move on.

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    • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

      Re: BWV 565 As a new 'serious' organist, I've wondered about this piece. Is it simply a fact that a) every organist has to perform it and b) every generic recording of organ music must include it? I've been playing in Army Bands for 27 years, and I feel that this is the same love/hate relationship that some have with "The Stars and Stripes"... The piece his entirely lost it's musical quality, it's just 'the march that everyone knows'... is the D minor just 'the organ piece everyone knows'? I've thought it would be a good idea to ban performances of these works for a generation or two, so we could all get it out of our system.

      cheers from snowy Virginia
      Allen, circa 2006

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        • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

          Chimay raises the perennial problem of the musical chestnut, the great piece that becomes a millstone about the neck of the player and the serious listener alike. It can become so annoying as to seriously derange one's judgement. I think it must have been overflowing frustration with the ubiquity of the Tocatta in D minor that led the noted Bach scholar, Peter Williams, to attempt to debunk its pedigree. He published a provocative article in Early Music magazine (c.1980) attempting to prove that BWV 565 was (a) not an organ piece and (b) not by Bach. Though he adduced some interesting evidence that the work was first written for the violin, his tilt at Bach's authorship wasn't very convincing. Still, you can almost forgive the man, hearing Dada-daaaaaaaa, dada-dada da da one time too many and saying to himself, "I'm going to put paid to this damned thing once and for all!"

          Lest anybody get the wrong idea, let me hasten to add that I have loved BWV 565 unconditionally since I was six years old and never tire of hearing it. Now the Pachelbel Canon on the other hand ...

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          • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

            The message you are replying to:
            Posted By: jameslouder on 01-09-2004 02:13 PM
            Subject: Re: was E. Power Biggs good?
            Message: OK, I know I should not do this, either, especially since I told Jerry I was out of here, but...

            ...mas528 is clearly playing the gadfly, so let's just trim his(her) stinger a little:

            First: Like every man alive, I have my share of self-interest, but I don't think I'm grinding my professional axe in this thread -- or does mas528 think I've been trying to sell somebody an organ? (Jerry sure ain't gonna buy one!!)

            Keep tryin James, you can get anything in life you desire if you only know how to ask for it !

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            • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

              Yes, Biggs was good in his own right. Nobody plays Bach on a pipe organ like Virgil Fox did. "They" cant even hold a candle to Fox on an electronic substitute.

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              • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                Well, now it is time for all to decide for themselves!
                This months release of "Virgil Fox, The Bach Gamut" Historical Concert Recording-volume I, recorded at Saint Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco is proof that Fox indeed was the greatest organist that ever lived!
                If you Love Bach, you will love this recording!

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                  • -

                    Simple answer: Of course Biggs was good. He was damn good. There's no way as many recordings of him would have been published if he weren't good. Columbia was not a charitible organization.

                    Whether his style was your cup of tea or not depends upon what kind of tea you like.

                    For me, I liked his styles a lot, though I'm not too fond of his Harvard Flentrop. But it does represent fairly acurately the state of orgelbewegung at the time. Fortunately we've gotten past that phase.

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                    • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                      smartcs


                      Joined: 05 Jul 2003
                      Total Posts: 29

                      Re: was E. Power Biggs good?
                      Posted: 11-09-2003 02:28 PM
                      Hi Jerry,

                      It was with wittism that I replied to the guy that needed, "Amphetamines to listen to Biggs",
                      to just get a rise out of him.

                      I think it worked ?
                      -------------------------
                      Worked? it more than worked. Indians could not have attacted a wagon train any better!

                      " Circle the wagons!"

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                      • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                        Didn't someone say that popularity is not necessarily a measure of how good a musician is? In that case we can't say that he who makes the most recordings is the best. That being said, I do think Fox has more recordings in print and people pay more for his records.

                        dan

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                        • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                          Hi Jerry again,

                          I,m still watching. Is that what you wanted to know?

                          Hugh

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                          • -

                            I think you CAN say that popularity is a measure of "good", at least in the eyes of the consuming public. In any case, quality is always subject to the values of the one doing the evaluation.

                            In any case, I'm quite sure that Biggs MADE more recordings than Fox. Certainly more Biggs records were in the record shops I frequented in the 1970s. Anecdotal evidence, of course.

                            Whether those recordings are available new today, I don't know.

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                            • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                              Did either of them win a Grande Prix du Disque?

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                              • Re: was E. Power Biggs good?

                                Yes, Biggs was a good player and a scholary person. By the way, people might want to read Michael Murray's book, "Albert Schweitzer--Musician." In the book, Murray notes that when Schweitzer visited the U.S in the late 40's he did in fact try numerous organs, but he was not really a supporter of the so-called "baroque organ" that Biggs advocated. According to Schweitzer, these organs were particularly deficient in the fact that the great and swell divisions were not sufficiently distinct in character. When I now listen to some of Biggs' recordings on the Flentrop I can admire the clear "speech" of the pipes, but the organ just does not have enough enough musical capabilities for my taste. Although some frowned on Virgil Fox's touring organ (Fox, by the way, never said said that electronic was better than pipes), his ability to reach out to people with a movable instrument can not be underestimated. I have some mixed feelings about Mr. Biggs. I really appreciate that he brought home to people the great sounds of those European organs. On the other hand, his preference for a certain kind of organ with low wind pressure and limited specifications---and the extent to which that preference was followed by organ builders and performers--- might have impeded interest in the instrument with younger audiences. One final note, taking nothing away from Biggs, but Virgil Fox was a superior concert performer, a true virtuoso with an incredible memory! I remember reading an old newspaper article containing Biggs' comments about a Fox performance on a Rogers at Carnegie Hall. Although Biggs did not like the organ, he called Virgil a "genius."

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