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E. Power Biggs
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E. Power Biggs

Edward George Power Biggs (March 29, 1906 - March 10, 1977), but always known as E. Power Biggs, was perhaps the most noted classical organist of the twentieth century.

He was born in England, and trained in London at the Royal Academy of Music. After a 1929 tour of the United States along with a London chamber group, he later emigrated there in 1930. In 1932, he took up a post in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lived there for the rest of his life.

He did much to bring the classical pipe organ back to prominence, in particular with a weekly radio broadcast on CBS which he gave from 1942 to 1958.

He was an important influence in the modern development of the pipe organ, and in particular was a force behind the tracker organ movement in the 1950s. He also pointed out the necessity of picking a room with good acoustics, and then selecting an instrument to match the room's acoustic characteristics.

An influential early new organ he was involved with was a Baroque-style un-enclosed, un-encased instrument with 24 stops and electric action, produced by Aeolian-Skinner in 1937, and installed in Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum. In 1957, as he moved on to trackers, his association with Dirk A. Flentrop led to the installation of an equally influential instrument in the Busch-Reisinger, a 3-manual tracker Flentrop, on which many of his recordings were later produced.

He also reached back in time to the old classic instruments, contemporaneous in time with the composers, and in particular the instruments of Arp Schnitger, whose work he helped make familiar to the modern audience when he released a recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's organ works played on many of the surviving Schnitger instruments.

He also taught at the Peabody Conservatory, and encouraged young composers to produce works, which he would then perform. His exacting technique and deep interest in early organ music set new standards for modern organists, and he left behind a considerable body of recordings.

Further Reading

Barbara Owen, E. Power Biggs: Concert Organist, (Indiana University Press, 1987)