E. Power Biggs

Edward George Power Biggs (March 29, 1906 – March 10, 1977) was a British-born American concert organist and recording artist.

E. Power Biggs
From Biggs's CD,
Bach — The Four Great Toccatas and Fugues.
BornMarch 29, 1906
DiedMarch 10, 1977 (aged 70)
OccupationOrganist, harpsichordist
Spouse(s)Colette Josephine Lionne, pianist (1933–1944) (divorced)
Margaret Allen ("Peggy") (1945–1977) (his death)


Biggs was born in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, England; a year later, the family moved to the Isle of Wight. Biggs was trained in London at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with G.D. Cunningham. Biggs immigrated to the United States in 1930. In 1932, he took up a post at Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Biggs did much to bring the classical pipe organ back to prominence, and was in the forefront of the mid-20th-century resurgence of interest in the organ music of pre-Romantic composers. On his first concert tour of Europe, in 1954, Biggs performed and recorded works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Sweelinck, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Pachelbel on historic organs associated with those composers. Thereafter, he believed that such music should ideally be performed on instruments representative of that period and that organ music of that epoch should be played by using (as closely as possible) the styles and registrations of that era. Thus, he sparked the American revival of organ building in the style of European Baroque instruments, seen especially in the increasing popularity of tracker organs — analogous to Europe's Orgelbewegung.[1]

Among other instruments, Biggs championed G. Donald Harrison's Baroque-style unenclosed, unencased instrument with 24 stops and electric action (produced by Aeolian-Skinner in 1937 and installed in Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts) and the three-manual Flentrop tracker organ subsequently installed there in 1958. Many of his CBS radio broadcasts and Columbia recordings were made in the museum. Another remarkable instrument used by Biggs was the John Challis pedal harpsichord; Biggs made recordings of the music of J.S. Bach and Scott Joplin on this instrument.

Biggs' critics of the time included rival concert organist Virgil Fox, who was known for a more flamboyant and colorful style of performance. Fox decried Biggs' insistence on historical accuracy, claiming that it was "relegating the organ to a museum piece."[2] However, many observers agree that Biggs "should be given great credit for his innovative ideas as far as the musical material he recorded, and for making the organs he recorded even more famous."[2] Despite different approaches, both artists enjoyed hugely successful careers and Biggs rose to the top of his profession. In addition to concerts and recording, Biggs taught at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at various times in his career and edited a large body of organ music.[3]

Biggs was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950.[4] For his contribution to the recording industry, Biggs has a star on California's Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6522 Hollywood Boulevard.

Selected discography

Many of his recordings are fondly recalled by classical music aficionados.

He recorded extensively for the Columbia Masterworks Records and RCA Victor labels for more than three decades. Between 1942 and 1958, he also hosted a weekly radio program of organ music (carried throughout the United States on the CBS Radio Network) that introduced audiences to the pipe organ and its literature.

External audio
You may listen to E. Power Biggs with Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing George Frederick Handel's Organ Concerto in B-flat Op. 7 No. 4 in 1959 here on archive.org
  • Works for Organ: Essential Classics
  • Bach: Organ Favorites recorded on the Flentrop Organ in the Busch-Reisinger Museum of Harvard University - MS 6261 (1961)
  • The Golden Age of the Organ, Columbia Masterworks M2S 697 (A tribute to German organ builder Arp Schnitger), organs in Germany and the Netherlands (1963)
  • Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche, Columbia Masterworks M30648
  • E. Power Biggs' Greatest Hits, Columbia Masterworks MS 7269
  • Bach Organ Favorites, Columbia Masterworks MS 6261
  • Bach Organ Favorites, Vol. 2, Columbia Masterworks MS 6748
  • Bach Organ Favorites, Vol. 3, Columbia Masterworks MS 7108
  • Bach Organ Favorites, Vol. 4, Columbia Masterworks MS 7424
  • Bach Organ Favorites, Vol. 5, Columbia Masterworks M 31424
  • Bach Organ Favorites, Vol. 6, Columbia Masterworks M 32791
  • Bach: Four Great Toccatas & Fugues (Cathedral of Freiburg), Columbia Masterworks M 32933 (1974)
  • Bach Eight Little Preludes and Concerto in D after Vivaldi, Columbia Masterworks M 33975 (1975)
  • Mozart: The Music for Solo Organ — Played on the "Mozart" organ at Haarlem, Columbia Masterworks MS 6856
  • Sweelinck: Variations on Popular Songs, Columbia Masterworks AMS 6337
  • A Festival of French Organ Music, Columbia Masterworks MS 6307
  • Buxtehude at Lüneburg, Columbia Masterworks MS 6944
  • Stars and Stripes Forever — Two Centuries of Heroic Music in America, Columbia Masterworks 81507
  • The Organ in America, Columbia Masterworks MS 6161
  • Historic Organs of England, Columbia Masterworks M 30445
  • Historic Organs of France, Columbia Masterworks MS 7438
  • Historic Organs of Italy, Columbia Masterworks MS 7379
  • Historic Organs of Spain, Columbia Masterworks MS 7109
  • Historic Organs of Switzerland, Columbia Masterworks MS 6855
  • The Four Antiphonal Organs of the Cathedral of Freiburg, Columbia Masterworks M 33514 (music of Handel, Purcell, Mozart, Buxtehude, et al.)
  • Bach on the Pedal Harpsichord, Columbia Masterworks MS 6804
  • Bach: The Six Trio Sonatas (Pedal Harpsichord), Columbia Masterworks M2S 764
  • Holiday for Harpsichord, Columbia Masterworks ML 6728
  • A Mozart Organ Tour, Columbia Masterworks K3L 231
  • Bach: The Little Organ Book, Columbia Masterworks KSL 227
  • The Art of the Organ, Columbia Masterworks KSL 219
  • Heroic Music for Organ, Brass, and Percussion, Columbia Masterworks MS 6354
  • Mozart: Festival Sonatas for Organ and Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks MS 6857
  • Haydn: The Three Organ Concertos, Columbia Masterworks MS 6682
  • The Magnificent Mr. Handel, Columbia Masterworks M 30058
  • The Organ in Sight and Sound, Columbia Masterworks KS 7263 (A technical discussion of the organ and its history)
  • The Organ Concertos of Handel, Nos. 1–6, Columbia Masterworks K2S 602 (with Sir Adrian Boult)
  • The Organ Concertos of Handel, Nos. 7–12, Columbia Masterworks K2S 604 (with Sir Adrian Boult)
  • The Organ Concertos of Handel, Nos. 13–16, Columbia Masterworks K2S 611 (with Sir Adrian Boult)
  • The Organ, Columbia Masterworks DL 5288
  • Bach at Zwolle, Columbia Masterworks KS-6005
  • Hindemith: Three Sonatas For Organ, Columbia Masterworks MS 6234
  • Famous Organs of Holland and North Germany, Columbia Masterworks M31961
  • Music of Jubilee, Columbia Masterworks ML 6015 (Bach Sinfonias, with Zoltan Rozsnyai)
  • Soler: Six Concerti for Two Organs, Columbia Masterworks ML 5608 (with Daniel Pinkham)
  • Plays Scott Joplin on the Pedal Harpsichord, Columbia Masterworks M32495
  • Heroic Music for Organ, Brass & Percussion, Columbia Masterworks MS 6354 (with the New England Brass Ensemble)
  • Music for Organ and Brass — Canzonas of Gabrieli and Frescobaldi, Columbia Masterworks MS 6117
  • Music for Organ, Brass and Percussion — Music of Gigout, Dupré, Campra, Widor, Strauss, Purcell, Clarke, and Karg-Elert, Columbia Masterworks M31193 (with the Columbia Brass and Percussion Ensemble, Maurice Peress, conductor)
  • Mendelssohn in St. Paul's Cathedral, Columbia Masterworks MS 6087
  • The Glory of Gabrieli Columbia Masterworks MS-7071
  • What Child Is This? Traditional Christmas Music, Columbia Masterworks MS 7164
  • Bach: Toccata in D Minor, Bach's Toccata in D Minor recorded on 14 of Europe's finest organs, Columbia Masterworks ML 5032
  • Rheinberger: Two Concertos For Organ and Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks M32297

Awards and recognition

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance:

  • Vittorio Negri (conductor), E. Power Biggs & the Edward Tarr Ensemble, for Glory of Gabrieli Vol. II — Canzonas for Brass, Winds, Strings and Organ (1969)


  1. ^ Barbara Owen, E. Power Biggs: Concert Organist, Indiana University Press (1987)
  2. ^ a b Richard Torrence, Virgil Fox — The Dish, Circles International (2005)
  3. ^ "E. Power Biggs - Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic.
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 20, 2011.

External links

11th Annual Grammy Awards

The 11th Annual Grammy Awards were held on March 12, 1969. They recognized accomplishments of musicians for the year 1968.

Adolphus Busch Hall

Adolphus Busch Hall is a Harvard University building located at 27 Kirkland Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is named for brewer and philanthropist Adolphus Busch, former president of the Anheuser-Busch company, who contributed $265,000 to its building fund.

The hall was designed by architect German Bestelmeyer to house Harvard's Germanic Museum. Its cornerstone was laid in 1912 and the building completed in 1917, but it was not opened to the public until 1921, officially because of a lack of coal.

The Germanic Museum evolved into the Busch-Reisinger Museum, the only museum in North America dedicated to the study of art from the German-speaking countries of Central and Northern Europe. The Busch-Reisinger was located in Adolphus Busch Hall from 1921-1991 and the hall continues to house the Busch-Reisinger's founding collection of medieval plaster casts, as well as an exhibition on the history of the museum.

The hall also hosts concerts on its Flentrop pipe organ, which was made famous by organist E. Power Biggs, who broadcast and recorded his long-playing records there.

The hall is also home to Harvard's Minda de Gunzberg Center for European Studies. Its courtyard contains a copy of the Brunswick Lion.

Biggs (surname)

Biggs is an English surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Asa Biggs (1811–1878), American politician

Basil Biggs (1819–1906), American laborer and veterinarian

Benjamin T. Biggs (1821–1893), American politician

Casey Biggs (b. 1955), American actor

Cecil Biggs (1881–1944), British rugby player and cricketer

Christopher Ewart-Biggs (1921–1976), British diplomat assassinated by the PIRA

D. E. Biggs (1860–1924), American politician

Electra Waggoner Biggs (1912–2001), American sculptor.

Gregory Biggs (1964–2001), American car accident victim

Hermann Biggs (1859–1923), American physician and Public Health pioneer

J. Biggs (b. 1965), wrestling manager Clarence Mason

Janet Biggs (b. 1959), American artist

James Crawford Biggs (1872–1960), American lawyer and politician

Jason Biggs (b. 1978), American actor

John Biggs (politician) (b. 1957), British politician

John B. Biggs (b. 1934), educational psychologist and novelist

John H. Biggs (b. 1936), Boeing director

John Biggs-Davison (1918–1988), British politician

Margaret Biggs (b. 1929), British children's writer

Max Biggs (1923–1990), American professional basketball player

Norman L. Biggs (b. 1941), British mathematician

Norman Biggs (1870–1908), Wales international rugby player

E. Power Biggs (1906–1977), British-American organist

Ralph Biggs (b. 1976), American basketball player

Richard Biggs (1960–2004), American actor

Riley Biggs (1900–1971), American football player

Ronnie Biggs (1929–2013), British criminal

Rosemary Biggs (1912–2001), British haematologist

Roxann Biggs, American actress Roxann Dawson

Selwyn Biggs (1872–1943), Wales international rugby player

Tony Biggs, Australian radio personality

Tyrell Biggs (b.1960), American boxer

Verlon Biggs (1943–1994), American football player

Mr. Biggs, stage name of Ronald Isley

Columbia Masterworks Records

Columbia Masterworks Records was a record label started in 1924 by Columbia Records. In 1980, it was separated from the Columbia label and renamed CBS Masterworks Records. In 1990, it was renamed Sony Classical Records after its sale to the Sony Corporation.

Daniel Pinkham

Daniel Rogers Pinkham, Jr. (June 5, 1923 – December 18, 2006) was an American composer, organist, and harpsichordist.

Emmanuel Church (Newport, Rhode Island)

Emmanuel Church is an historic Episcopal church at 42 Dearborn Street in Newport, Rhode Island. The church began as a mission of Newport's Trinity Church in 1841. In 1852, it was admitted into the diocese as Emmanuel Free Church in its own right.The current building was designed by architectural firm Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson in Late Gothic Revival style. It was built between 1900 and 1902, thanks to a donation in memory of John Nicholas Brown I by his widow, Natalie Bayard Brown. Brown donated the reredos and murals in 1921 in honor of Armistice Day. In the early 1930s, E. Power Biggs served as its organist. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

G. D. Cunningham

George Dorrington Cunningham (October 2, 1878 - August 4, 1948) was an important concert organist. Born in London to musical parents, Cunningham studied piano with his mother, subsequently switching to organ at the Guildhall School of Music. Upon graduation he studied with Josiah Booth at Park Chapel, Crouch End, North London. From there he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music, where he became an FRCO at age eighteen and organist of the Alexandra Palace at twenty-two, in 1901.

After 1900 Cunningham's fame as a recitalist steadily grew. However, during the armistice celebrations of 1918 the instrument at Alexandra Palace was wantonly wrecked, and was not restored and re-opened again until December 1929. From 1920 to 1924 he was organist of St Alban's Church, Holborn.

In 1924 Cunningham was appointed Birmingham City Organist and Birmingham University Organist. He was conductor of the City of Birmingham Choir for many years. He also played often at the Town Hall of the same city. In September 1930 he made recordings on the restored Alexandra Palace organ.

Cunningham's most important students were E. Power Biggs, George Thalben-Ball, who succeeded him at Birmingham in 1949, Fela Sowande, and Michael (Stockwin) Howard, Geraint Jones and Arnold Richardson.

Cunningham died in Birmingham, aged 69.


A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. This activates a row of levers that turn a trigger mechanism that plucks one or more strings with a small plectrum.

The term denotes the whole family of similar plucked-keyboard instruments, including the smaller virginals, muselar, and spinet. The harpsichord was widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music. During the late 18th century, with the rise of the piano, it gradually disappeared from the musical scene. In the 20th century, it made a resurgence, being used in historically informed performances of older music, in new compositions, and in certain styles of popular music.

James Hewitt (musician)

James Hewitt (June 4, 1770 – August 2, 1827) was an American conductor, composer and music publisher. Born in Dartmoor, England, he was known to have lived in London in 1791 and early 1792, but went to New York City in September of that year. He stayed in New York until 1811, conducting a theater orchestra and composing and arranging music for local ballad operas and musical events. He also gave lessons and sold musical instruments and publications in his "musical repository".

He began participating in the musical activities of Boston as early as 1805, and moved there in 1811, pursuing the same activities as he had done in New York. For the rest of his life he traveled between the two cities. After an unsuccessful operation in New York in early 1827, he was brought back to Boston, where died a few months later. His place of burial is not known. Most of his publications were the works of British composers, including William Shield, James Hook and even Haydn and Mozart. He also published about 160 of his own works, including instrumental, keyboard, and vocal compositions. Like other American music teachers of the same era, he also produced several pedagogical books.

One of his most well-known works today is The Battle of Trenton, a keyboard sonata written in 1797 and dedicated to George Washington. This sonata contains numerous short sections with descriptive titles, such as "The Army in Motion," "Attack—Cannons—Bomb," "Flight of the Hessians," "Trumpets of Victory," and so forth, including one section using the tune "Yankee Doodle." When the harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick revived the piece in 1940, Time magazine commented that "Though written for the most part in the measured, tinkling idiom of 18th-Century English salon music, The Battle of Trenton still preserved a smoldering crash and rumble reminiscent of the early works of Ludwig van Beethoven." The piece has been arranged for band and can be heard as performed by the Goldman Band on the album "Footlifters - A Century of American Marches." It was also recorded by organist E. Power Biggs, who narrated his own performance.

Hewitt was especially influential in musical life of New York in the early nineteenth century. Four of his children became prominent musicians: his son John Hill Hewitt (1801–1890) was an important composer, his daughter Sophia Henrietta Emma Hewitt (1799–1845) was a well known concert pianist, his son James Lang Hewitt (1803–53) was a successful music publisher (married to the poet, Mary E. Hewitt), and another son George Washington Hewitt (1811–93) taught and composed music. His niece was soprano Eliza Biscaccianti.

John Challis (harpsichord)

John Challis (1907–1974) was an American builder of harpsichords and clavichords.

His father Charles was a jeweler and watchmaker who moved his family from South Lyon, Michigan to Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1919.

John attended Michigan Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), where his interest in constructing keyboard instruments emerged.

He spent four years apprenticing with Arnold Dolmetsch in England, returning in 1930, when he set himself up building instruments in a two-story space above a dress shop in Ypsilanti. At that time he was the only harpsichord maker in America. He later moved to Detroit. When his house was condemned to build the Chrysler Freeway, he moved to New York City.

As he was the son of a jeweler, it was to be expected that Challis might include metal work in his instruments, and handmade brass hinges were a signature detail. His early instruments were traditionally constructed using traditional materials, but they evolved more than anyone else's. By the late 1950s his instruments still looked traditional from the outside, but were quite radical within: the frame and wrestplank were aluminum; bridges were brass; only the outer case was wood. Of his soundboard construction, Mr. Challis said, "This is my only secret"; Wolfgang Zuckermann (in his 1969 book The Modern Harpsichord) conjectured that they were anodized aluminum. Website postings by several harpsichord experts independently report that Challis' soundboards were not single aluminum sheets but are honeycombed.[1][2]

The instruments had a clear and bright sound and stayed in tune through temperature and humidity changes. A Challis pedal harpsichord was used by E. Power Biggs on two Columbia Masterworks recordings of the music of J.S. Bach and two of Scott Joplin.

Makers who worked or apprenticed in his shop included William Dowd, Frank Rutkowski, and Stewart Pollens.

Kottick, in his authoritative A History of the Harpsichord, expresses admiration for Challis's innovative work, but also notes it was something of a dead end: during Challis's lifetime, the construction of harpsichords shifted strongly toward close imitation of the work of the historical master builders of the 18th century and earlier. Thus, Challis's harpsichords served as a something of a last hurrah for 20th century efforts to improve the harpsichord by using modern technology. The movement toward historicist construction was initiated, among others, by Challis's own student Dowd.

Kotzschmar Memorial Organ

The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, usually referred to as the Kotzschmar Organ, is a pipe organ located at Merrill Auditorium in the City Hall of Portland, Maine, United States. Built in 1911 by the Austin Organ Co. as Opus 323, it was the second-largest organ in the world at the time, and it remains the largest organ in Maine today.The organ was donated to the city by Portland native Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis (founder of the Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia) as a memorial to Hermann Kotzschmar, a close family friend for whom he had been named. Kotzschmar was

a German-born musician who came to Portland in 1849, acquired a reputation as the city's most prominent musician, and lived there until his death in 1908. The Kotzschmar Organ is a prime example of the U.S. style of municipal (city-owned) organs which were once a prevalent part of American culture throughout the first half of the 20th century. It was the first municipal organ built in the U.S., and is one of only two U.S. municipal organs still owned by a municipality — the other being the Spreckels Organ in San Diego, California. PortTIX is the official box office for Kotzschmar organ performances at Merrill Auditorium.

List of organists

The following is a list of notable organists from the past and present who perform organ literature.

List of people from the Isle of Wight

This is a list of notable people born in or strongly associated with the Isle of Wight, alphabetically within categories.

March 10

March 10 is the 69th day of the year (70th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 296 days remain until the end of the year.

Organ reform movement

The Organ Reform Movement or Orgelbewegung (also called the Organ Revival Movement) was a mid-20th-century trend in pipe organ building, originating in Germany. The movement was influential in the United States in the 1930s through 1970s, and began to wane in the 1980s. It arose with early interest in historical performance and was strongly influenced by Albert Schweitzer's championing of historical instruments by Gottfried Silbermann and others, as well as by Schweitzer's declaration that the criterion for judging an organ is its fitness to perform with clarity the polyphonic Baroque music of J. S. Bach (1685–1750). Concert organist E. Power Biggs was a leading popularizer of the movement in the United States, through his many recordings and radio broadcasts. The movement ultimately went beyond the "Neo-Baroque" copying of old instruments to endorse a new philosophy of organ building, "more Neo than Baroque". The movement arose in opposition to the excesses of symphonic organ building, and eventually symphonic organs regained popularity after the reform movement brought excesses of its own.

Organ repertoire

The organ repertoire is among the largest for any solo musical instrument. Because of the organ's (or pipe organ's) prominence in worship in Western Europe from the Middle Ages on, a significant portion of organ repertoire is sacred in nature. The organ's suitability for improvisation by a single performer is well adapted to this liturgical role and has allowed many blind organists to achieve fame; it also accounts for the relatively late emergence of written compositions for the instrument in the Renaissance. Although instruments are still disallowed in most Eastern churches, organs have found their way into a few synagogues as well as secular venues where organ recitals take place.

Sonata on the 94th Psalm

The Sonata on the 94th Psalm in C minor is a sonata for solo organ by Julius Reubke, based on the text of Psalm 94. It is considered one of the pinnacles of the Romantic repertoire.

It is in three movements:

I. Grave - Larghetto - Allegro con fuoco - Grave

II. Adagio - Lento

III. Allegro - Più mosso - Allegro assaiAn average performance lasts 23 - 28 minutes.

Variations on "America"

Variations on "America", is a composition for organ by the American composer Charles Ives.

Composed in 1891 when Ives was seventeen, it is an arrangement of a traditional tune, known as "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" (words by Samuel Francis Smith), and was at the time the de facto anthem of the United States. The tune is also widely recognised in Thomas Arne's orchestration as the British National Anthem, "God Save the Queen", and in the former anthems of Russia ("The Prayer of Russians", from 1816 to 1833), Switzerland ("Rufst du, mein Vaterland", until 1961), and Germany ("Heil dir im Siegerkranz", from 1871 to 1918), as well as being the current national anthem of Liechtenstein ("Oben am jungen Rhein") and royal anthem of Norway.

Ives prepared it for a Fourth of July celebration in 1892 at the Methodist church where he was organist in Brewster, New York. He performed it for the first time on February 17, 1892, and made revisions to the work until 1894. Although the piece is considered challenging even by modern concert organists, he spoke of it as being "almost as much fun as playing baseball".It went unpublished until 1949, when the organist E. Power Biggs rediscovered it, and prepared an edition for publication. He incorporated it into his repertoire, and it became a regularly performed piece by American organists. In 1962 it was orchestrated by William Schuman, and premiered in this version by the New York Philharmonic under Andre Kostelanetz in 1964. The Schuman orchestration formed the basis of a wind band version by William E. Rhoads, published in 1968.


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