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date: 22 February 2020

Biggs, E(dward George) Powerlocked

  • Vernon Gotwals

Extract

(b Westcliff, Essex, March 29, 1906; d Boston, March 10, 1977). American organist of English birth. He studied at the RAM in London. After touring the USA in 1929 as the soloist in an ensemble, he took up residence there in 1930 and became an American citizen in 1937, initially holding church and teaching positions before embracing a career as a recitalist, broadcaster and recording artist that did much to popularize the concert organ and organ music as well as the artist. From 1942 to 1958 he broadcast weekly solo programmes over a nationwide radio network. Originating in the Germanic (now Busch-Reisinger) Museum at Harvard University, these recitals on an Aeolian-Skinner ‘classic style’ organ brought the sound of organ mixtures, mutations and Baroque reeds, as well as the music itself, to many listeners for the first time. Biggs was meanwhile an indefatigable public performer. A product of both activities was the extensive series of recordings, made in the USA and in many European cities, including the ‘Historic Organs of England’, the ‘Mozart Organ Tour’ and the award-winning ‘The Glory of Gabrieli’, the Handel organ concertos (recorded at Great Packington), various Bach projects, and others with instrumental ensembles. Biggs published editions of early music and performed new works (by Hanson, Piston, Quincy Porter, Sowerby and others, with particular emphasis on those for organ and orchestra). His career was marked, then, by interest in organ music of all eras and in many kinds of organs most suitable to its interpretation, and by unfailing energy in performance. He played with most major American orchestras, and in ...

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