SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Heroic Music” for Organ, Brass and Percussion – E. Power Biggs, organ/ The New England Brass Ensemble – Columbia/ Sony Classical/HDTT


Published on January 22, 2011

“Heroic Music” for Organ, Brass and Percussion – E. Power Biggs, organ/ The New England Brass Ensemble – Columbia/ Sony Classical/HDTT

“Heroic Music” for Organ, Brass and Percussion – E. Power Biggs, organ/ The New England Brass Ensemble – [TrackList below] Columbia/Sony Classical/HDTT HQCD218 [avail. in five different formats at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/], 31:02 *****:

E. Power Biggs was one of the two famous concert organists and recording artists in the 50s and 60s – the other was the more flamboyant Virgil Fox. Biggs carefully researched the music he performed and helped bring the classical pipe organ back to attention. He also performed and recorded on the pedal harpsichord, including even a Scott Joplin album. He made many recordings which are prized by classical collectors, but few are still available. His “Glory of Gabrieli Vol. II” won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Recording in 1969. Our favorite is the only one that was reissued from its SQ quad original on multichannel (4.0) SACD – Bach’s Four Great Toccatas & Fugues played from one console on four organs. 

Heroic Music was also released as an SQ LP, and it appears that sometime after its original release in 1962 on a single LP it was issued as a standard double-LP album (and later CD) totaling 69:41. This transfer was made from a prerecorded Columbia ¼ track open reel tape and the 31-minute length is reasonable for either a tape or LP – about 15 minutes per side. (We’ve been listing in the headings of these HDTT reviews the various formats available. To be specific, in this case you can obtain this album either burned to a gold CD-R, on a High Quality Compact Disc {reviewed herein, and don’t tell me it’s just a standard 44.1K CD – I put it in this Hi-Res section because like the K2 HDs and some of the xrcds, it does definitely sound more hi-res than standard CDs}, as a 96K/24bit DVD-R, as a 96K/24bit download, or as a 192K/24bit download.)

Although these tapes are understandably very old, HDTT employs the most expensive and tweaky equipment in playing them back and mastering them to hi-res digital, and it works!  Even on the ¼-track tapes (without Dolby B encoding) there is no hearable hiss, and the fidelity of both the organ and the powerful brass is first rate.  The program mixes chestnuts like Jeremiah Clarke’s march with lesser-known pieces for brass, percussion and organ.  Composer Daniel Pinkham did the percussion scoring and Biggs did the orchestrations. There have been some advances in Baroque performance standards since this album first came out, and similar pieces have been recorded by such later ensembles as the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, the Empire Brass and the Canadian Brass. However, the Biggs effort is a landmark of the genre and a thrill to hear in such excellent fidelity. However, after a short while these many fanfares began to sound all alike; I think I wouldn’t make it thru the 69-minute version at one sitting if I had it at hand.

TrackList:
  The Prince of Denmark’s March / Clarke 2:18; Interlude / Clarke 0:51; King Williams March / Clarke 0:36; Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound / Handel 0:30; A Trumpet Voluntary / Handel 1:06; Trumpet tune / Croft 1:09; Voluntary for Organ & Trumpets / Croft 2:34; Fanfare in CM / Purcell 0:28;  Trumpet tune "Bonduca / Purcell 1:24; Ayre for Organ / Purcell 1:59; Trumpet tune Martial Air / Purcell 1:13; Trumpet tune "Cebel" / Purcell 1:27; Voluntary in CM / attr Purcell 2:10; Overture Der Getreue Musikmeister / Teleman 0:58; Heroic Music / Honor – Teleman 1:21; Heroic Music / Charm – Teleman 1:36; Heroic Music / Bravery – Teleman 0:48; Heroic Music / Quietness – Teleman 1:13; Heroic Music / Vigor – Teleman 0:45; Heroic Music / love – Teleman 1:40; Heroic Music / Vigilance – Teleman 0:43; Heroic Music / Playfulness – Teleman 0:41; Heroic Music / Gentleness – Teleman 1:16; Heroic Music / Generosity – Teleman 1:17; Heroic Music / Hope – Teleman 1:19; Heroic Music / Joy – Teleman 0:43

– John Sunier




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