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Giovanni GABRIELI (c1554/7-1612)
Intonation for Organ on the 1st tone [0:29]
Plaudite, psallite, iubilate Deo omnis terra [3:03]
Intonation for Organ on the 9th tone [0:42]
In ecclesiis [8:19]
Intonation for organ on the 10th tone [0:50]
O magnum mysterium [3:53]
Intonation for Organ on the 11th tone [0:36]
Hodie Christus natus est [3:01]
Intonation of the Organ on the 8th tone [0:41]
Three Mass Movements;
Kyrie Eleison I (motet in 8 parts) [3:47]
Christe Eleison (motet in 8 parts)
Kyrie Eleison II (motet in 12 parts)
Gloria (motet in 12 parts) [2:22]
Intonation for Organ on the 7th tone [0:36]
Deus, qui beatum Marcum [2:58]
Sonata in the 9th tone for 8 parts [2:22]
Canzon in the 9th tone for 8 parts [3:31]
Canzon in the 7th tone for 8 parts [3:19]
Ricercar for organ [2:29]
Canzon in the 9th tone for 12 parts [3:55]
Canzon in the 7th and 8th tones for 12 parts [2:49]
Canzon in the 12th tone for 6 parts [2:55]
Sonata for three violins and organ [3:50]
Canzon in the 12th tone for 10 parts [3:17]
Canzon in the 1st tone for 10 parts [3:04]
Intonation for organ on the 2nd tone [0:29]
Angelus ad pastores ait [2:54]
Intonation for organ on the 3rd and 4th tones [0:41]
Regina coeli laetare [2:06]
E Power Biggs (organ)
The Gregg Smith Singers
The Texas Boys Choir of Fort Worth
The Edward Tarr Brass Ensemble
The Gabrieli Consort La Fenice/Vittorio Negri
rec. San Marco, Venice, 15-27 September 1967. ADD
SONY CLASSICAL 82876 78762 2 [72:38]

The English-born American organist Edward Power Biggs was an extraordinarily important figure in the organ reform movement, not only in the USA, but also in Europe. A brilliant organist, he was among the first to record on historic organs throughout Europe, when most of his more famous European counterparts were more interested in recording organs built during the first wave of the neo-baroque period. Biggs was responsible of course for the commissioning of one of those organs, the Flentrop at Harvard University, made famous through his recordings and broadcasts. But his most important legacy is his body of recordings for CBS matching literature with old instruments in a manner more far-sighted than almost anyone else of his generation, in my estimation at least. His Mozart recording from the freshly-Marcussened St Bavo organ in Haarlem remains phenomenal. He recorded Bach on Schnitger organs in Nieder-Sachsen, as well as in Zwolle and a host of other venues, Cabanilles on historic organs in Spain, Frescobaldi in Italy, and even Handel in Great Packington on the Samuel Green organ designed by Handel himself. As you will by now have gathered, he is one of my heroes and it is to be regretted that comparatively little of his recorded oeuvre has been re-issued. As well as his work championing historic instruments, his Poulenc Concerto recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra, or the Copland Symphony recording with the New York Philharmonic are also too remarkable to be forgotten.
The current recording dates from 1967 and is typical of Biggs's energy and vision. His desire to make the first Gabrieli recordings in the San Marco in Venice was fulfilled through a bizarrely idiosyncratic combination of people and circumstances. The choirs were American, the brass players German and the organ Austrian. The project came up against huge problems of logistics. To quote producer John McClure: "We countered bureaucracy with deceit, resistance with guile, hesitation with aggression and were thus able to overcome both customs and the Church, who, it must be said, had rented us her body but not her heart."
One of the most eccentric aspects has to be the use of a ten stop Rieger organ transported from Austria for the recording. Its very equal temperament is reflected in the brass - a curious mixture of old and modern instruments, though all well played - and in addition to what McClure describes as an "ambivalence towards authenticity", it must be said that the singing is more lusty than beautiful.
However these complaints from the ears of 2006 miss the point. This recording is a fantastic example of the best of the questing spirit which characterised the re-awakening of interest in early music in the middle of the 20th century. It is a fascinating sound-document.
Chris Bragg


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