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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

E. Power Biggs (1906 – 1977)

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As part of our organ programming for the Lenten season, I am planning a pair of YouTube-inspired posts on two of the most notable American-based organists of the latter half of the 20th century, beginning with British-born, adoptive American organist E. Power Biggs.

If parents today would choose “Power” as the given name of their son, with the surname Biggs, the kid had better be built like a linebacker! I wonder if children 100 years or so ago were as cruel as they were in my day – or even today – teasing the poor kid in the schoolyard, especially if Mr. Biggs were a frail and geeky sort if chap.

Edward George Power Biggs was born in England, and studied under G.D. Cunningham at London’s Royal Academy of Music, emigrating to the U.S. in 1930 and becoming a citizen in 1937. He concertized widely, eventually broadcasting a weekly radio program from 1942-1958 on a classic Aeolian-Skinner organ from the Musch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University.

Biggs was one of the most influential figures in the American Musical world during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His was a household name as his Sunday morning radio broadcasts brought fine organ music of all periods to American listeners - this program alone brought the sound of organ music, particularly that of the Baroque, to an unprecedented large audience.

Biggs' inexhaustible energy as a performer was instrumental to the popularization of both the organ and Baroque music, and his activities extended well beyond these broadcasts. He toured and recorded widely, playing a huge variety of modern and historic organs and the music best suited for them, eventually expanding his repertory into every period of music. Biggs played everything from Buxtehude, Bach, and Handel to Hindemith, Scott Joplin, and Ives; and he experimented with such diverse media as the pedal harpsichord and the latest in quadraphonic sound recording. He encouraged American composers to write new works for the organ and performed them regularly on the radio and at his recitals. As the leading interpreter of music for organ with other instruments, he premiered many major works with American orchestras. He was an indefatigable performer, concertizing throughout the world and giving exposure abroad to works by such American composers as Sowerby, Copland, and Piston.

Biggs eschewed electronic instruments and did everything he could to encourage churches and concert halls to acquire instruments by the best builders. He set his own example with two pace-setting instruments installed in the Germanic Museum of Harvard University. He was one of the pioneers in the return to smaller, tracker-action organs for the performance of Baroque and Classical literature. In his search for authenticity, he visited the places where some of the organ greats had lived, and in a Historic Organs of Europe series, recorded the music of Frescobaldi, Soler, Sweelinck, and Bach, among others, on the instruments they had actually played.

Today’s playlist offers a wide sampling of works by some of the above-mentioned composers.


Charles Edward IVES (1874-1954)
Variations on 'America,' for organ, S.140
(Unspecified instrument)

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
(1958 Flentrop tracker in the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University)

Jeremiah CLARKE (ca. 1674-1707)
The Prince of Denmark's March (1697)
Interlude/King William’s March (1702)
with the New England Brass Ensemble

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Andante with variations, K.616
Fugue in G minor, K.375
(Unspecified instrument)

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Feierlicher Einzug der Ritter des Johanniter-Ordens ("Processional Entry") TrV224
with the Columbia Brass & Percussion Ensemble, Maurice Peress, conductor
(1958 Möller/St. George Episcopal, New York, NY)

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Organ Concerto in G Minor, Op.4, No.1, HWV289
With the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult

Scott JOPLIN (c.1868-1917)
Maple Leaf Rag (1899)
(Performed on pedal harpsichord)

YouTube Playlist @

March 14, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Trios elegiaques" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel .Read more March 14 on our blogs in English and in French.