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E. Power Biggs is still the "King of Bach Organists" to this day since Johann S. himself

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  • #46
    "This is a conversation I have with my students continually. They want me to make judgments regarding who is the best musician on a particular instrument among them. I attempt to point out that not everyone is talented the same. Therein lies the crux of the matter. Of course, my father always used to say, Opinions are like noses--everyone has one!</P>


    My father also told me, When Satan was kicked out of heaven, he lit foot-first in the choir. 90% of all your troubles in a church will be related to the music. The percentage may be a little off, but he knew what he was talking about. For some reason, musicians have a unique ability to find fault where there is none, to create discord where there is none, to take insult where none was intended, be fearful someone might be better than them, and manage to find someone to blame.</P>


    True freedom comes when one can make his/her contribution to the world of music, and fully appreciate the contributions of others without continually scrutinizing it under a microscope. Of course, there are always academic discussions regarding performance practice, but how many times have those discussions changed over the last century alone?"
    Well said, myorgan. It gets tiring, boring, listening to and reading all the negative criticism. I have to think that it has something to do with how secure people are. I used to do a good deal of accompanying singers, and I knew almost immediately when things weren't going to go well. Those who were secure in their craft, personhood were far easier to work with, and made things a pleasant experience. Those who weren't - is there such a thing as a singerzilla?

    I think listening to music is a little like looking at a painting; you can almost always find something you like in it - even though you might not care for the rest of it.

    "...be fearful someone might be better than them, and manage to find someone to blame." It's not unlike golf - there's always someone better than you out there. Get used to it.
    Last edited by Admin; 07-14-2016, 01:45 PM. Reason: fixed quoting

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    • #47
      EPB was very important mainly because he brought into people's homes organ works previously unheard by non-musical people and he recorded on European instruments as well as on organs built in the USA. He had his limitations, as everyone
      does, but he was important. Comparisons with Virgil are pointless.

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      • #48
        Yes I heard of Virgil Fox, saw him in person once or twice. Very good organist one of the top in his day.

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        • #49
          I had the pleasure to attend a performance of E. Power Biggs during my college years at Stetson University, Florida, more than 50 years ago. I found this photograph on line of Mr. Biggs sitting on the organ bench:

          https://archive.org/details/hatter1965stetson/page/60

          The organ is a Beckerath tracker:
          • Stetson University's organ by Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg represented a revolutionary departure from the generally accepted norms in American organ building. It foreshadowed and strongly influenced a re-birth of classic organ design in the United States. Internationally recognized, the Beckerath organ has had seminal influence on organ building in America, and has been featured on the cover of Orgel Internationale.
          Those years were my introduction to organ music, and I heard many recitals on this organ. I remember Mr. Biggs being a gracious person, who went to the Student Union Building following the concert to talk with students.

          I recall him playing his Variations on America, but years of traveling have resulted in loss of the program, so I don't remember what else he performed.

          His were my first organ recordings, many of which continue to be favorites, yet I would hesitate to give him the designation of "King," for that suggests "infallability."

          It is similar on photography forums which I frequent: someone writes that so-and-so is the best portrait photographer ever, or landscape photographer, etc. Often such people are dismissed as trolls!

          It is silly, really, since the musical arts exist to be interpreted. An interpretation is a point of view, and listeners also have their point of view.


          Originally posted by ArthurCambronne View Post

          What E. Power Biggs does better than anyone else, is play Bach with absolute attention and loyalty to the written work. There is not one note out of place.
          This may not be correct. One example comes quickly to mind is what one organist friend describes as "octave displacement," where the performer plays the note in an octave different from the one written -- used often by performers, he told me. Here is an example where E. Power Biggs does this:

          Click image for larger version  Name:	01bwv542octave.jpg Views:	0 Size:	33.9 KB ID:	664056


          In this recording you can hear it at around 3:35:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbbgic9Tv5M

          Another example: here, E. Power Biggs takes three notes (C, B, A) from the left hand with the pedal reed, making an "updeat" -- calling attention -- to the final pedal entrance. It is a great effect, I think!

          m.56
          Click image for larger version  Name:	02bwv577-2.jpg Views:	2 Size:	40.1 KB ID:	664047

          At 1:59 in this recording:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOP_0YRHbZo

          To compare: Jonathan Scott at 1:55 in this recording:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLXUYJdhVLY

          One more example: E. Power Biggs appears to hold the "A" longer in the measure following this series of repeated "A" in the pedal. I don't hear the eighth-notes that I've marked out in red:

          m.63
          Click image for larger version  Name:	03bwv577-4.jpg Views:	2 Size:	42.2 KB ID:	664048


          At 2:20 in the same recording:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOP_0YRHbZo

          And Jonathan Scott at 2:12 in his same recording -- I can hear those eighth notes:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLXUYJdhVLY

          Full scores:

          BWV 542/2: https://musescore.com/bsg/fugabwv542

          BWV 577: http://www.free-scores.com/download-...php?pdf=35898#

          Regarding comparing performers: there are so many performances of any JS Bach composition, all of which express different points of view. I enjoy hearing differences, even though I may not like some of them, but I learn something from all!

          Happy listening!

          -richard
          Last edited by richj; 08-27-2019, 03:38 AM. Reason: Correct spelling

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          • #50
            Electric Power Biggs was definitely one of the greatest Bach interpreters ever. His playing was crisp and proper, yes. But it has a magical VIVIDNESS, a musicality that in its sheer BEAUTY cuts across all genres and eras. It invites you into a world of awesome architecture, color, texture, meaning and profound enjoyment. I'm honestly sorry for those that don't get his interpretive genius -- this usually happens because they're (ironically enough) purists and don't consider his registrations or ornaments true to history or they're allergic to anything that's a commercial success.

            There are organists, even top-rated ones, that love music and those that don't. EPB DID, and lived to share it with others like no other player ever has. (This is also very true of Virgil Fox, yes -- but comparing apples and oranges is futile.) Beyond EPB's playing is everything else he did for the organ, i.e. for music. Believe he recorded over 100 LPs -- the one of the Soler duo sonatas added needed sparkle to my teen years, just as his definitive Festival of French Organ Music record helped launch my (middle baby boom) generation of players. Did his disk of Karg-Elert's Praise the Lord With Drums and Cymbals make it the great and deserving hit it is today? Wouldn't it be great to have a list of all the works he recorded.

            Biggs' liner notes were half the fun -- so veddy British but engaging populism as well.

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