Anthony Newman

Plays J.S. Bach


My #8 Album

in 2011


in 1972

on Columbia Masterworks

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Music Awards
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This page was first posted July 1, 2012

Anthony Newman debuted as a harpsichordist and organist.  He is now also a conductor and composer.

    I began playing cello at the age of 10.  At age 12, I auditioned for and was accepted into the city-wide youth symphony.  With this early background, classical music is something I have been familiar with and have enjoyed since my pre-teen years.

    At first, I considered Beethoven to be my favorite composer.  I liked his music because of its heaviness.  (I discovered hard rock at 8 years old and immediately loved the intense jamming guitars, so my love for heavy music pre-dated my discovery of classical music.)

    When I was in 7th grade (12 years old), my best friend was a devoted fan of J.S. Bach.  He tried to get me to become a Bach fan, but I dismissed Bach as being too dainty; I preferred the heavy stuff like Beethoven.  So finally one day, my friend, Rusty Bryant, played the opening lines of J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor on the piano in the practice room.  I stood there stunned.  Amazed.  This was not what I had pictured Bach to be like.  This was good stuff!

    Then he let me borrow an album of his, Anthony Newman Plays J.S. Bach.  I got to hear the original, on harpsichord, and immediately I loved it.  I liked the album so much that I asked my parents to get it for me for Christmas.  On Christmas morning, I opened the present that was the shape of an LP, hoping for this album, but instead came across a different Anthony Newman album...not the one I wanted.  My parents saw the look of disappointment on my face, and wondered why, and as I recall, I explained it was a different album than the one I had asked for, but it was still Anthony Newman, and I’m sure I would still like it.  Indeed, I did: Even to this day, I think the Anthony Newman album I got (pictured at right, with the white cover) is a spectacular album, and I never get tired of it.

    I figured I’d get the album with Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor on it soon, but somehow, time slipped by, I never got it, and then I couldn’t find the album anywhere. 

   About ten years before I got this album, I inherited the record collection of a great aunt who had died, Mildred Harshbarger, and in that collection was a recording of Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, played by E. Power Biggs on the harpsichord.  All right!  I finally got a recording of this song! E. Power Biggs was a major keyboard player (he mostly played organ), so I thought it should be good.  But when I played it, I was very disappointed.  It sounded so dead, so lifeless, compared to the way I remember Anthony Newman playing it.

    In recent years, I’ve tried again to find Anthony Newman’s debut album, but to no avail.  Then suddenly one day, a couple copies of the album appeared on Amazon!  I immediately bought one.  The one I got cost me almost $23 and it was scratched up pretty bad, even skipping in some places, but I’m just glad to have a copy.  (Almost immediately the other copy sold too, and I haven’t seen it available since.)  I was so, so happy to finally get this album!!!  This is the album that made me a J.S. Bach fan!

    I put the album on with great anticipation, as it begins with Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor.  Yes! Yes!!  It was just as I had remembered it -- truly mesmerizing, not uninspiring the way E. Power Biggs played it.

    Reading the liner notes on the back of the album, I discovered that Anthony Newman’s Bach interpretations were quite controversial.  One controversy regarded the speed at which he played the songs.  This prompted me to compare the length of the tracks on each performer’s records.  The E. Power Biggs version was 12 1/2 minutes long, which the Anthony Newman version clocked in at 9:36.  Wow!  Now that is some tempo difference!  No wonder I felt that the E. Power Biggs version was lifeless.

    But when Anthony Newman plays, it’s not just about tempo.  When other keyboardists play J.S. Bach or the music of other baroque composers, they seem to just go through the motions of playing music from a printed page.  When Anthony Newman plays, however, he JAMS!!  It’s more than tempo -- he puts life into the songs that make it seem like he’s having a blast playing them.  Even in slower songs, there seems to be more beauty about the way he plays them. 

    Anthony Newman seems to experiment with sounds (stops?), also, when he plays, giving the songs more variety.  In one piece on this debut album, he even does the first half of it on the organ, then at a place where the song pauses, he switches to harpsichord to finish out the song!

    I’ve never heard anyone play J.S. Bach or other baroque music on the keyboard in a manner that’s anywhere near as good as the way Anthony Newman plays.  I am so glad to have been able to finally, after almost 40 years, to be able to find a copy of his rare debut.  Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy his other album I have, which I believe is his second album.  Such great stuff!

Anthony Newman is still active, it’s just that his early albums are no longer available.  Here’s a link to his current website.

To previous album on 2011 awardsFuture_Sound_Of_Worship_Vol1.html

When other keyboardists play J.S. Bach, they often seem to be just going through the motions.  When Anthony Newman plays, he JAMS!!

<<- Click the play button to hear the very rare version of J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia & Fugue in C Minor

(It may take awhile for the song to download; until then you’ll just see a QuickTime symbol)

The Anthony Newman I got for Christmas in my junior high school days. Click play to hear J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata No. 6 in G, first movement (Vivace) from this album.  The beat in this is so good that I can dance as hard to this as I do in current dance music.