anthony_newman_closeupAnthony Newman, Bio

High Fidelity Magazine, which had its origins in Great Barrington in 1951 and was later sold to American Broadcasting Companies with a sister magazine for $9M, had this to say about our guest organist, ANTHONY NEWMAN:

“With Anthony Newman, we have to invent a whole new category in which to place Bach performances, so fresh and original are his ideas, that the result is basically unlike any other performance. Coupled with his youthful impetuosity is a brilliant and analytical mind that is able to project more of the essence of Bach’s music than any other performer I know.”

In addition to being called “the High Priest of Bach” by Time Magazine, Newman has also composed a significant amount of music – as much as Stravinsky – and has released his most important compositions in a 20CD set. His music is essentially tonal and employs archetypes from early 20th century composers like Stravinsky and Bartok, as well as constructions from the Baroque and Classical periods, resulting in music that often has the same powerful and touching effect as music of the past. A few of his many compositions well worth hearing include:

  • 12 Preludes and Fugues for piano – fascinating pieces and which, similar to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC), are in ascending key order. These pieces, like Bach’s WTC would be well worth an advanced pianist’s time to master (1990)
  • Two neoclassical orchestral symphonies (1998)
  • A Requiem for chorus and orchestra (2000)
  • A stunning Theme and Variations for flute quartet (2004)
  • Based on the Planets for cello and piano with an eerily perfect movement named Venus which simultaneously evokes large distances and intimacy (2006)
  • Based on the Elements, a piano sonata in four movements: Water, Earth, Air and Fire (2007) and,
  • A Sonata for violin and piano (2010)

Newman is a composer, conductor, writer and teacher but it is his performance of Bach that makes him an American master albeit, since the 1970s, largely underappreciated. The reason that Newman’s powerful and expressive Bach has not been received into the mainstream of the classical music world is, according to Newman, simple: people are accustomed to hearing music a certain way and become biased. Today, over 40 years after his debut album, Newman is still an outsider in the world of Baroque organists and harpsichordists. Despite, or perhaps because of, his recording and concert success during the 1970s, award-winning recordings of Beethoven Piano Concerti in the 1980s, his arrangement and conducting of the biggest selling classical album of 1996, Wynton Marsalis’ In Gabriel’s Garden (it was he who wrote out Marsalis’ trumpet ornaments – Sony SK66244), and 27 consecutive composer’s awards from ASCAP, the large conservative wing of the self-referential Baroque keyboard club consider Newman unworthy of notice. He was twice named Harpsichordist of the Year and once Classical Keyboardist of the year by Keyboard magazine yet chairs of harpsichord and organ departments at a number of American music conservatories are generally unwilling to discuss his work. Perhaps Newman is right; it could be that unfamiliarity breeds contempt. Thus, Baroque harpsichordists and organists, who are often highly educated in their field and are capable of verifying Newman’s research on Baroque performance practices, are tainted by an inbred conviction that Bach can only be exciting to musical intellectuals who are uniquely capable of appreciating Bach’s contrapuntal refinements. To them playing Bach passionately is just too carnal.

…….More of Mr. Newman’s extensive biography is available at his website.