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Record Box

Exhilarating performances

A historic organ recital
by Virgil Fox,
reviewed by
PATRIC STANDFORD


Circles International    SMD-041

The Bach Gamut, volume 1. Virgil Fox, organ. © 2004 Circles International

In September 1976 Charles F Swisher and Keith Johnson made recordings of the legendary organist Virgil Fox during his recitals at St Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco. The recordings were done with limited equipment and no budget, and it is due to the miracle process using isopropyl alcohol that the tapes, which were quite damaged, were restored to recapture what the 5,500 strong audience remembered as an occasion 'so sonically luminous it took one's breath away'.

A still frame from the DVD showing Virgil Fox at the consolei of St Mary's Cathedral. © 2004 Circles International
A still frame from the DVD showing Virgil Fox at the consolei of St Mary's Cathedral. © 2004 Circles International

Virgil Fox died just four years later, and this first volume recaptures one of his greatest American Bach triumphs. It is a showman's concert. The performances are eccentric and the audience responses, evidently very excited, are all included, and arising out of the appaluse Fox regales his audience with the last half page again!

A still frame from the DVD showing one of the visualisations made with the Kaleidoplex Digital Light Organ, invented for Virgil Fox's touring show 'Heavy Organ'. © 2004 Circles International
A still frame from the DVD showing one of the visualisations made with the Kaleidoplex Digital Light Organ, invented for Virgil Fox's touring show 'Heavy Organ'. © 2004 Circles International

The concert includes the G minor Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 542); Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C (BWV 564); two more Fugues, with their Preludes (BWV 543 and 532) and some extras (like the finale from the St Matthew Passion). The whole recording is like a vast musical party [listen -- track 2, 4:56-track 3, 0:32], and if you can stand playing it over several times, there are some exhilarating (if not always quite authentic) performances.

Copyright © 9 October 2004 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK

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The Bach Gamut, volume 1

SMD-041 CD/HDCD + DVD Video Region code ALL (2.0 Stereo + 5.1 Surround) NEW RELEASE 66'12" 2004 Circles International

Virgil Fox, organ

J S Bach: Fantasy and Fugue in G minor BWV542; Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C BWV564; Prelude and Fugue BWV543; Prelude and Fugue BWV532; Finale from the 'St Matthew Passion'

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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews