"I have one other recording by Anthony Newman: Bach's Art of Fugue played on a Casavant organ which was equal to the task of faithfully rendering Bach's music in all it's grandeur and clarity, but it was recorded in such a way as to suggest the microphones were placed at the windchests: you had no idea of the acoustics of the church the organ resided in, unless you could listen carefully enough for brief pauses in the music. Although "Art of Fugue" listed in the credits the church the recording was made in, we have no such luxury here. (Perhaps the elders at THIS church previewed the recording and decided they would not have listeners believe the church had more carpeting than the Astrodome, and therfore requested the church and organ remain anonymous). Although Mr. Newman plays with flawless technique, he obviously took a page out of Virgil Fox's book on interpreting Bach. He throws enough extracurricular ornamentation into such works as "Fantasy & Fugue in G minor" to render the outset of the Fantasy nearly unrecognizable. It brings to mind the words of Mozart's patron (from the film "Amadeus"): "Too many notes." Mr. Newman does select some thought-provoking registrations at places in certain selections which struck me as quite refreshing, but, as a whole, I found this VoxBox offering a disappointment. I'm ready to go back to E. Power Biggs, bad edits and all."
Newman is good, if a bit flamboyant
Duane Meeter | Tallahassee, FL USA | 11/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That's what our church organist (Ph.D., Eastman) said when I asked him about Newman, after I had bought and enjoyed the above recording. (I have heard so many BAD recordings of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor that I was relieved to hear it played sensibly on this wonderful CD.)I'm sorry if one reviewer didn't like Newman's added notes; he should look up 'ornaments' in the Norton/Grove concise Encyclopedia of Music - or listen to contemporary soloists in Handel's Messiah for ornamentation in the spirit of the Baroque and classical eras.Is the recording dry? Yes - but it's not muddy, as cathedral organ music is. Every week I sit five feet from a 22-stop tracker action organ built in the North German style and hear glorious music, often Bach, performed impeccably. Our church seats 300 and doesn't have cathedral acoustics - I still get a thrill from Bach, played well."
Sabotaged by Technical Brilliance
Virginia Opera Fan | Falls Church, VA USA | 09/15/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Mr. Newman is an admirable technician whose manual and pedal virtuosity are truly extraordinary. Unfortunately, his dexterity gets in the way of the music. At these hyperkenetic speeds the effect is the aural equivalent of disco-era strobe lighting. Thank you, but I don't like it at all. I don't like dutiful plodding in Bach's organ works either, but the music needs a little breathing space for the granduer to make its effect. The chorale based preludes aren't badly done at all. It's a shame that some of the reflection exhibited in the chorale works didn't filter into the free compositions. Yes, the notes are all there, but the polyphony doesn't have time to register at these speeds. While I appreciate ornamentation in this music, it should add expression not the here-it-comes-again predictability we get in these run throughs. Mr. Newman also has a preference for garish, reedy registrations. All in all, the race to the finish line and the monotonous,blaring screech of the organ make for some unpleasant listening."
Dermot Elworthy | Florida , United States | 12/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Anthony Newman is possessed of a formidable technique. This means, inter alia, that he is able to play very quickly and at the same time, accurately. Because he is able to play very quickly and accurately, he all too frequently does; often destroying the musical sense of the piece in the process. This is a pity for he has a well-founded understanding of Bach's music and the North German instruments for which it was written, although he is given to adding embellishments not contained in the score and not within the stylistic traditions of the time. This is Bach; not Balbastre!
As an aside, this wondrous technical ability allows him to play the Trio Sonatas (not included in these discs) with no 16' stop drawn; mercilessly revealing of any shortcomings in pedal performance (of which there are none!) but introducing a wonderful clarity to these important works. I envy him this facility. But in the case of these Preludes and Fugues, he gets so much right and then seems to veer off at some totally disconnected and eccentric tangent.
Some may wonder at his choice of instrument but it is well chosen and makes a welcome change from those symphonic leviathans which popularly and erroneously are supposed to be de rigeur for this music. Another reviewer has indicated a preference for another recording involving a large Casavant Frères instrument. This organ builder, like numerous others, has modelled many of his instruments very much in the character of the hugely influential Cavaillé-Coll organs but these are of a type, specification and building tradition very different from the German instruments and introduced nearly 100 years after Bach's death. They have absolutely no relevance to the German Barok.
The organ employed in these recordings is to be found at the Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut, where the chapel seats about 250. 23 stops are included in three divisions of the late-nineteenth century instrument which recently has been enlarged and voiced in the North German/Dutch ethos and the one familiar to Bach. The fairly dry, non-reverberant acoustics and "chamber" proportions of the organ allow a wonderful clarity of performance.
It largely was for this type/scale of organ that Bach wrote and is most revealing of the contrapuntal nature of his work. Virgil Fox and fellow circus performers have much to answer for . . .
Unfortunately, Mr Newman lets himself down here for there are better collections of the Preludes and Fugues. Sadly, the superb recordings made by Lionel Rogg in the early 'sixties have been unavailable for a long time and his subsequent cycle is very mediocre by comparison. In preference, I would choose the incomparable Helmut Walcha. Alternatively, I would recommend the cycles done by Hans Fagius and George Ritchie. I am unable to develop much enthusiasm for this particular collection."