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The Virgil Fox Phenomenon

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It seems perfectly clear to me.

 

===============

 

Clear as mud!

 

I was defending the fact that I had done the work myself immediately, and I was using the vehicle, with the intention of having it re-examined within the seven day period.

 

The offence was "Using the vehicle on the public road without a current MOT certificate"

 

Nowhere on the certificate does it state that it is an offence to use the vehicle on the public roads without a certificate of roadworthiness, yet it "permits" the use of the vehicle "if the necessary work has been carried out," and further implies a 7-day period of grace.

 

After that, the failure certificate was changed, and the words, "It is an offence etc" are now included.

 

I must have been a very annoying youth, but the magistrate got a fit of the giggles when I pointed out the implications and the fact that I had complied with the spirit of the law, and thus had no "intention" of flauting statute.

 

It probably explains why I used financial law so extensively in my work in finance, and lived for moments like that.

 

<_<

 

MM

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Me too. Which begs the question - what were you defending and how did you get away with it?

 

 

=======================

 

 

Never mind all that rubbish. What about the learned counsel, who loathed and despised the judge, who had a bit of a drink problem.

 

Standing up to address the court, and with a great theatrical sweep of his arm as he then pointed accusingly at the defendent, he roared "You see, the defendant was as drunk as a judge!!"

 

The judge banged the gavel noisily, and said very politely, "I think the expression is, 'as drunk as a Lord' "

 

The counsel nodded in deferment, then grovellingly replied, "As you please, m'Lud."

 

<_<

 

MM

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Then there was the judge who listened to a long, tedious case, during which the defence barrister went into extraordinary detail.

 

After several hours, the presiding judge said, "Well, I have to say, that having listened to the arguments of the defence, I am absolutely non-the-wiser."

 

The defending barrister replied, "My Lord, you may indeed be non-the-wiser, but at least you are now better informed."

 

<_<

 

MM

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Guest Lee Blick

MM, you tell a good story. We need more people like you on the boards. <_<

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MM, you tell a good story.  We need more people like you on the boards.  <_<

 

Since when have you started springing to people's defence!!! (Alive ones, that is.)

 

:P

 

It really has to be said though - http://www.virgilfoxlegacy.com/masterclass.html - registering a trio sonata with a reed in one hand? "All eighth notes need to be non-legato"? Speed up tempo? Use of swell pedal to add shape to a trio sonata? "Mechanical instruments make control too difficult"? What kind of a masterclass is THAT? You're welcome to it.

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Since when have you started springing to people's defence!!!  (Alive ones, that is.)

 

:P

 

It really has to be said though - http://www.virgilfoxlegacy.com/masterclass.html - registering a trio sonata with a reed in one hand?  "All eighth notes need to be non-legato"?  Speed up tempo?  Use of swell pedal to add shape to a trio sonata?  "Mechanical instruments make control too difficult"?  What kind of a masterclass is THAT?  You're welcome to it.

 

 

===================

 

As for registeringa trio sonata with a single reed in one hand, my recording of Marie Claire-Alain demonstrates exactly that!

 

The use of swell pedals in a trio sonata, whilst completely inauthentic, is very much within the remit of the orchestral/symphonic organ school which could be heard in places outisde America. I have mentioned Straube's approach, which is highly significant in this discussion, but the W T Best "arrangements" of Bach show a similar romantic trend, and Lemare even performed the Gigue Fugue on Tubas and Pedal Reeds!!

 

You can't criticise Fox on the basis of his orchestral style playing, which was very much the fashion of the day.....and we are talking now, some 70 years or so after Fox first burst onto the organ-scene in America. The symphonic/orchestral style was also pursued with vigour in England, but nowhere was the debate and controversy so powerful as in America, and the open hostility which Virgil Fox demonstrated towards E.Power-Biggs.

 

After all, the use of a swell box in a trio sonata is actually not very different to hearing Angela Hewitt play Bach on a Steinway. Inauthentic it may be, but it is superb nontheless.

 

I'm not sure about the "non legato" 8th notes, but I would concede that Virgil Fox often played things far too fast. That said, he fairly wowed young people (especially) with his rapid trio-sonata outer movements, and when was the last time that happened at an organ recital?

 

Of course, the comment about mechanical action is interesting, because in a way, Virgil Fox was absolutely right. The very light and responsive American organ-actions (using Pitman chests), enabled very fine control over most things, but especially over points of expression. So it was (and is) perfectly possible to turn Bach's music into a symphonic type of experience, using every means at the disposal of the performer.

 

Some do not like it, but that doesn't mean that it isn't musically valid.

 

If there is one aspect of the debate which fascinates me, it is to be found in the comparison between Virgil Fox and E.Power-Biggs; the latter an equally stupendous, but rather less showy organist. Each, in their unique way, communicated very powerfully, and to this day, some of my favourite Bach performances are those played by Biggs.

 

If I can find the link, there is a wonderful recording of Biggs playing the Flentrop at the Busch Museum, Harvard (what a gem that is to play!). The sheer vitality and phrasing perfection is hard to equal, let alone better.

 

However, there is something in this debate which disturbs me, for we seem to have gone down the path of "little England" again, which I find both delusional and self-satisfied. Virgil Fox was artistically quite acceptable during his own lifetime, and "more enlightened" does not necessarily mean "better," judging by some of the "authentic" performances I have heard from certain people.

 

Should we, would we or dare we place a performer like Ton Koopman in the same eccentric mould as Virgil Fox when it comes to proper Bach performances?

 

Go on, I dare you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

<_<

 

MM

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===================

Virgil Fox was artistically quite acceptable during his own lifetime, and "more enlightened" does not necessarily mean  "better," judging by some of the "authentic" performances I have heard from certain people.

 

Should we, would we or dare we place a performer like Ton Koopman in the same eccentric mould as Virgil Fox when it comes to proper Bach performances?

 

Go on, I dare you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

<_<

 

MM

 

If you want to worship VF, go right ahead. The point where you say that VF was artistically quite acceptable during his own lifetime is the bit where I start to think you're a bit deluded - not even so sycophantic a critic as Ted Alan Worth would try and argue that one and even provides plenty of evidence to the contrary. When you suggest that Koopman is in the same mould, I really begin to think you've lost it altogether!

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If you want to worship VF, go right ahead.  The point where you say that VF was artistically quite acceptable during his own lifetime is the bit where I start to think you're a bit deluded - not even so sycophantic a critic as Ted Alan Worth would try and argue that one and even provides plenty of evidence to the contrary.  When you suggest that Koopman is in the same mould, I really begin to think you've lost it altogether!

 

 

=====================

 

 

With the exception of one thing, I am not sure when or where I lost it, whatever it might have been.

 

I do not worship Virgil Fox at all, anymore than I do the memory of Ayrton Senna in Formula One, but I'm glad that I'm not deaf enough or old enough not to be able to recognise something special when I hear it.

 

This idea that music is set in stone, and the best carvings are to be found around the Oxbridge area, really is quite wrong at best, and positively stupid at worst; perhaps giving rise to a style of performance which comes from the head rather than the heart, when it should be both. That's possibly why the best performers tend to come from the colleges rather than from the universities.

 

I think the following will illustrate my point perfectly, because if there is one thing which lifts these performances out of the ordinary or even elevates them above the merely good, then it is the total commitment and red-blooded passion of the performers.

 

http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/0310/

 

Liste to the following:-

 

 

Fred Hohman "Air on G string" 20m.15secs

 

Jean Guillou "Vivace - Trio Sonata No. 2 in c, S. 526" - 30m15secs

 

Max Reger expansions of Bach Two part inventions - Paul Jacobs - 44m25secs

 

Ton Koopman - Bach Prelude in B Minor S.545 - 57min00secs

 

Virgil Fox - Passacaglia in C minor S582 - 1hr09min02secs

 

Now compare this to the one Bach recording I revere above all others:-

 

http://www.kfki.hu/~zlehel/zene/

 

Listen to the first G-minor Fugue (The Little) played by E.Power-Biggs on the Harvard Flentrop, and just marvel at the interpretation and phrasing.

 

MM

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As for registeringa trio sonata with a single reed in one hand, my recording of Marie Claire-Alain demonstrates exactly hat!
When I was young the standard advice for playing was to draw two well-contrasted tone colours on the manuals, to enable the part-writing to be heard clearly. I never really swallowed this because it just seemed to destroy the dialogue between the parts. In my book the tone colours need to be different enough to be distinguishable, but not too different. Aren't the majority of instrumental trio sonatas written for two similar melody instruments?

 

I'm not sure about the "non legato" 8th notes, but I would concede that Virgil Fox often played things far too fast. That said, he fairly wowed young people (especially) with his rapid trio-sonata outer movements, and when was the last time that happened at an organ recital?

Well I have to say that in my experience audiences are easily wowed in the states - they are naturally very appreciative. Would that British audiences let their hair down in the same way. The question to ask is: did VF's rapid trio sonata performances wow young people over here?

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The question to ask is: did VF's rapid trio sonata performances wow young people over here?

 

 

 

=====================

 

When was the last time that 6,000 teenagers attended an organ concert in the UK?

 

Anyway, if I can be wowed by the "Scissors Sisters," why can't young people be wowed by a Bach Trio Sonata played with a bit of attitude?

 

I suspect that the young of today are so bored with the status quo in England, they would probably throw empty beer cans at anyone appearing in a suit.

 

MM

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=====================

 

When was the last time that 6,000 teenagers attended an organ concert in the UK?

 

Anyway, if I can be wowed by the "Scissors Sisters," why can't young people be wowed by a Bach Trio Sonata played with a bit of attitude?

 

I suspect that the young of today are so bored with the status quo in England, they would probably throw empty beer cans at anyone appearing in a suit.

 

MM

 

So, these 6000 teenagers. Where are they now? Where are all the organ devotees as a result?

 

I suspect more people will be impressed for longer by a sincere and profoundly musical performance which isn't entirely reliant on the charisma presenting it. I was originally "wowed" by Gillian Weir because it was flamboyant, showy AND scholarly and right. As a result my enjoyment could transfer onto other performers, too, without getting locked into a "cult".

 

I wouldn't keep on if it was *just* about getting 6000 people interested in the organ and its music, because that would have been a good thing and it would have been possible to do without the music suffering. But it wasn't - it was about getting 6000 people interested in Virgil Fox, and both instrument and music had to bend to his personality. His increasingly bizarre stage behaviour (especially when working with orchestras - things like hurling himself bodily at stop jambs rather than use the general cancel, and flamboyantly choosing stops and acting up during orchestra-only passages) just proves the need for being "centre stage" takes priority above all other considerations. That is not the right way round and actually won't win friends for the instrument, only ensure the record companies, managing agents, sponsors and patrons continue to keep the ball rolling and draw their income.

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So, these 6000 teenagers.  Where are they now?  Where are all the organ devotees as a result?

 

I suspect more people will be impressed for longer by a sincere and profoundly musical performance which isn't entirely reliant on the charisma presenting it.  I was originally "wowed" by Gillian Weir because it was flamboyant, showy AND scholarly and right.  As a result my enjoyment could transfer onto other performers, too, without getting locked into a "cult".

 

I wouldn't keep on if it was *just* about getting 6000 people interested in the organ and its music, because that would have been a good thing and it would have been possible to do without the music suffering.  But it wasn't - it was about getting 6000 people interested in Virgil Fox, and both instrument and music had to bend to his personality.  His increasingly bizarre stage behaviour (especially when working with orchestras - things like hurling himself bodily at stop jambs rather than use the general cancel, and flamboyantly choosing stops and acting up during orchestra-only passages) just proves the need for being "centre stage" takes priority above all other considerations.  That is not the right way round and actually won't win friends for the instrument, only ensure the record companies, managing agents, sponsors and patrons continue to keep the ball rolling and draw their income.

 

 

===================

 

Ask any advertiser or marketing specialist, and they will tell you that the cult of "celebrity" sells like no other.

 

Young people don't buy cars because they are safe or well made, they buy them because they are flashy and fast.

 

"Winning friends for the instrument" has only been achieved once, to the best of my knowledge, and that "once" is very firmly connected with the era of orchestral transcriptions, theatre organs and organists who could play obviously virtuosic works brilliantly.

 

Vanessa May is something of a musical cult to many, but she probably brought Bach to more people than almost anyone; the same being true of the "Swingel Singers."

 

If life is merely confined to that which is serious, deep, meaningful or spiritual, then it is an unbalanced life. Some people, (myself included), know how to laugh, cry, pull the odd prank, drive far too fast, tell a joke, poke fun at VIP's, watch "The Royales" or "The Catherine Tate show" and delight in those old film clips of the man who revolved like a lunatic on roller-skates, playing a zylophone strapped to his chest, or Harold Lloyd dangling from a sky-scraper.

 

I deeply regret that I could never have had the real pleasure of watching and hearing the great Virgil Fox in live concert, which would have amused, thrilled and delighted me, just as Carlo Curley does today, but that is only a part of me.

 

I go to Holland for the exact opposite reason......to be spiritually moved, to reflect and to savour my favourite organ-music, by Max Reger.

 

I can't help thinking that those who place "depth" and "seriousness" on a pedestal, are the very same people who would deny people the pleasure of adoring the spectacularly bad efforts of Florence Foster-Jenkins or the very pithy social comment made by the film "The life of Brian".

 

In fact, isn't this the same mentality as the Taliban?

 

MM

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So, these 6000 teenagers.  Where are they now?  Where are all the organ devotees as a result?

 

I suspect more people will be impressed for longer by a sincere and profoundly musical performance which isn't entirely reliant on the charisma presenting it.  I was originally "wowed" by Gillian Weir because it was flamboyant, showy AND scholarly and right.  As a result my enjoyment could transfer onto other performers, too, without getting locked into a "cult".

 

I wouldn't keep on if it was *just* about getting 6000 people interested in the organ and its music, because that would have been a good thing and it would have been possible to do without the music suffering.  But it wasn't - it was about getting 6000 people interested in Virgil Fox, and both instrument and music had to bend to his personality.  His increasingly bizarre stage behaviour (especially when working with orchestras - things like hurling himself bodily at stop jambs rather than use the general cancel, and flamboyantly choosing stops and acting up during orchestra-only passages) just proves the need for being "centre stage" takes priority above all other considerations.  That is not the right way round and actually won't win friends for the instrument, only ensure the record companies, managing agents, sponsors and patrons continue to keep the ball rolling and draw their income.

 

I am inclined to agree with David.

 

I get a clear sense that, whilst you may not 'worship' Virgil Fox, MM, there are many aspects of his musical life which you appear to have glossed-over.

 

For example, the occasion when he prevented Ted Alan Worth from studying abroad, informing a would-be sponsor "Oh no - he isnt' grown up enough yet."

 

There are other aspects - he was exceedingly mean with regard to finances. I accept that he gave of his time to students occasionally - but there are many more instances when he charged high fees. Realistically, one would not expect to receive lessons from the likes of David Briggs or Olivier Latry gratis - but charging penurious students $5.00 per night to sleep in an attic, on an old matress balanced on some organ pipes - or to charge $1.00 for a small bottle of Coke, is rather small-minded.

 

There are a number of occasions when he expected Ted Worth literally to drop whatever he was doing and travel often considerable distances - at his own expense - in order to act as page-turner, or simply to listen.

 

I must say that I found David Briggs rather more generous than this - and he gets all the notes right....

 

One can argue that Virgil Fox was world famous and he did not need to do anything for nothing. On the other hand, if he was so concerned to spread the 'gospel' of the organ and thus ignite the fire of enthusiasm in the next generation, he could surely have tried to ensure that students were financially able to do that which he required of them - or at least reccommend them for bursaries.

 

I am still amazed at his attitude in the case of Ted Worth's tuition abroad. The evidence I have seen and read leads me to surmise that it was Fox who never grew up - certainly he seemed to spend a great deal of his time arguing with colleagues and employers.

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With respect, that has no bearing on the question you asked and the point I made in reply.

 

 

===================

 

Over here, people tend to be little old men prior to puberty; afterwards going through a brief phase of teenage madness and alcoholism, before finally joining the mass ranks of the depressingly conformist and politically correct.

 

Whenever I look at British society, I always end up thinking of the Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch.

 

That possibly doesn't answer the question, but it will have to do!

 

<_<

 

MM

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===================

 

Over here, people tend to be little old men prior to puberty; afterwards going through a brief phase of teenage madness and alcoholism, before finally joining the mass ranks of the depressingly conformist and politically correct.

 

Whenever I look at British society, I always end up thinking of the Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch.

 

That possibly doesn't answer the question, but it will have to do!

 

<_<

 

MM

 

I haven't got the faintest clue what you're on about, in all honesty.

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Over here, people tend to be little old men prior to puberty;
What? Even the girls? <_<
afterwards going through a brief phase of teenage madness and alcoholism, before finally joining the mass ranks of the depressingly conformist and politically correct.

Of course a sizeable percentage of men go through a distinctly juvenile phase in their 40s or 50s. Most of those who don't become old women. Well that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

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I am inclined to agree with David.

 

I get a clear sense that, whilst you may not 'worship' Virgil Fox, MM, there are many aspects of his musical life which you appear to have glossed-over.

 

For example, the occasion when he prevented Ted Alan Worth from studying abroad, informing a would-be sponsor "Oh no - he isnt' grown up enough yet."

 

There are other aspects - he was exceedingly mean with regard to finances. I accept that he gave of his time to students occasionally - but there are many more instances when he charged high fees. Realistically, one would not expect to receive lessons from the likes of David Briggs or Olivier Latry gratis - but charging penurious students $5.00 per night to sleep in an attic, on an old matress balanced on some organ pipes - or to charge $1.00 for a small bottle of Coke, is rather small-minded.

 

There are a number of occasions when he expected Ted Worth literally to drop whatever he was doing and travel often considerable distances - at his own expense - in order to act as page-turner, or simply to listen.

 

I must say that I found David Briggs rather more generous than this - and he gets all the notes right....

 

One can argue that Virgil Fox was world famous and he did not need to do anything for nothing. On the other hand, if he was so concerned to spread the 'gospel' of the organ and thus ignite the fire of enthusiasm in the next generation, he could surely have tried to ensure that students were financially able to do that which he required of them - or at least reccommend them for bursaries.

 

I am still amazed at his attitude in the case of Ted Worth's tuition abroad. The evidence I have seen and read leads me to surmise that it was Fox who never grew up - certainly he seemed to spend a great deal of his time arguing with colleagues and employers.

 

 

===================

 

 

Finally we agree!

 

That's what I was saying all along, and the reason why I alluded to homosexual narcissism and Oscar Wylde.

 

That was absolutely at the heart of the phenomenon, but make no mistake, it WAS phenomenal and it WAS art, of sorts, if only because it encapsulated a whole era in American history.

 

My comment about the Taliban is not without foundation, because we now find ourselves in an age where conformity is hailed as a pre-requisite to respectable living, and where individuality and freedom of expression are increasingly frowned upon.

 

If Virgil Fox was anything, he was the one organist who "Did it my way," and this whole discussion has demonstrated just how polarised a musical issue that can be.

 

Perhaps we should stop talking about Fox now; fun though it has been.

 

There's a whole world out there.

 

How about E.Power-Biggs?

 

<_<

 

MM

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What? Even the girls? :P

Of course a sizeable percentage of men go through a distinctly juvenile phase in their 40s or 50s. Most of those who don't become old women. Well that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

 

 

===============

 

You should meet some of the girls I know!

 

I think your theory of juvenile 50-year-olds is entirely correct, and you should indeed stick to it, just as Dudley Moore did.

 

<_<

 

MM

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MM, what does homosexual narcissism have to do with this? In fact, what is homosexual narcissism, come to think of it? Is it different from heterosexual narcissism? And how does it contribute to the debate on the musical style/virtues of Virgil Fox?

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How about E.Power-Biggs?

I have his recording of Bach Trio Sonatas on a pedal harpsichord. It is worthy but unconvincing - an organ played by Koopman or Butt (or many other people) is a much better bet.

 

Paul

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