Described by Wynton Marsalis as "The High Priest of Bach", and by Time Magazine as "The High Priest of the Harpsichord," Anthony Newman continues his 50 year career as America's leading organist, harpsichordist and Bach specialist.
His prodigious recording output includes more than 170 CDs on such labels as CBS, SONY, Deutsche Grammaphon, and Vox Masterworks. In 1989, Stereo Review voted his original instrument recording of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto as "Record of the Year". His collaboration with Wynton Marsalis on Sony's "In Gabriel's Garden" was the best selling classical CD in 1997.
As keyboard artist, he has performed more than sixty times at Lincoln Center in New York, and has collaborated with many of the greats of music: Kathleen Battle, Itzhak Perlman, Eugenia Zukerman, John Nelson, Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Levine, Lorin Mazel, Mstislav Rostropovich, Seji Osawa, and Leonard Bernstein.
J.S. Bach Keyboard Series (4 Volumes, 12 CDs — 272 Tracks)
"Newman is full of ideas, and his performances are characteristically individual confrontations with the music, owing nothing to lazy habit or the tyranny of received ideas. He is remarkably concerned about clarity, about sheer intelligibility. Newman is worth going to hear any time."
"On the whole, the performances were propulsive and crisply articulated but never tense or overdriven. Mr. Newman likes to use a generous amount of ornamentation and rubato effect, almost all of which sounds convincing, or at least defensible. His use of rubato as a structural device is particularly subtle — tiny pauses at various key spots to isolate and define vertical blocks within a phrase. This is a very tricky procedure, but Mr. Newman has managed to incorporate it naturally into what has always been a formidable keyboard technique."
"Newman’s erudition (in spoken introductions) and fastidious digital clarity have marked his performances for decades, and they were on full display here. His solo offering, the Bach 'Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue,' was the concert’s high point, drawing out every possible shade of expression from the instrument through subtle timing and imaginative register changes."
"Simon had conducted the concert with Anthony Newman as organ and piano soloist, but for the Mozart Newman conducted while Simon gave a well-styled organ solo. Newman is, of course, an expert conductor as well as a world-famous performer on the organ, harpsichord and fortepiano. Last night, before accepting Simon's baton, he had given a brilliant, soulful and musically solid interpretation of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 and a delightful performance of a popular Handel organ concerto — the one nicknamed 'The Cuckoo and the Nightingale' because of the interlocked echoes of bird songs played by the organ. The Beethoven was performed on a modern Steinway, an instrument not usually associated with Newman but one he plays (unsurprisingly) very well. It was particularly good to see this star performer, who has more than 80 records to his credit, humbly taking the role of an orchestral musician when he was not in the solo spotlight, reinforcing the bass line with his piano and unobtrusively enriching the orchestra's sound. This is no longer expected of soloists, though it would have been taken for granted in Beethoven's time, and it added a nice touch of authenticity to the performance."
"Newman uses a 3-manual harpsichord (16/8/8/8/4) built in 1981 by Keith Hill and Philip Tyre. Its photo on the cover of the booklet (as well as the recorded sound) attests the high quality of craftsmanship. Rafael Puyana's recording for Harmonia Mundi was also made on a 3-manual instrument — a 1740 Hieronymus Hass (16/8/8/4/2) now in Puyana's own collection. In addition to considerable power, these large instruments provide a great variety of color along with ease of rapid registration changes. One outstanding moment in the Newman disc occurs in K 215 (Track 18) in which a dark (in color) registration complements the rather light and delicate texture of the sonata, subtly revealing the wonderful harmonic progressions. The sound is very fine, the notes clear and informative (though the description of K 216 as 'very brilliant and 'runny' [emphasis mine] evoked a wry chuckle from the musicologist in me)."
"Anthony Newman's performance of these four favorite sonatas on a fortepiano, though, are very persuasive, by no means mere demonstrations of the instrument (in this case a copy of an 1804 Clementi fortepiano that's agreeably smooth and warm sounding) but quite creditable realizations of these works. Newman, of course, does have to concern himself with his instrument's limitations, as well as with its possibilities for expressiveness, and he makes a strong case for it by focusing on the music itself as his main concern. His sane, straightforward approach favors tempos that are a bit brisk, but never at all rushed, and his performances are free of gratuitous interpretive overlay."
"One has only to compare the intimacy of Liszt's Ave Maria with the driving force of the Widor movements to appreciate Newman's combination of technical ability and musicianship. In the Reubke sonata, moreover, and especially in the Liszt Fantasia and Fugue, he demonstrates his understanding of large musical structures and keen sense of pacing appropriate registration. His performance here is enhanced by a recording that beautifully captures the sound of the Trinity Church instrument."
"…this one has dazzling finger-work, bold ideas about ornamentation and rhythmic rhetoric, and an air of total conviction. Where is differs from the old one is in a new and welcome level of artistic and communicative insight." "But in this new release technique is always at the service of the music." "Newman's is the superior reading," "…for his gorgeous voicing of the lyrical 13th Variation, the grandeur and excitement he brings to the French overture of the 16th variation and the blazing virtuosity of the 29th variation, just to name a few." "The performances are light and graceful, played with great élan by all concerned." "No single performance could ever tell us all that there is to say about a work such as the Goldbergs, but Newman's is likely to remain unchallenged among harpsichord versions of this piece for the foreseeable future." "Newman is offering a penetrating and compelling new vision of this music that should enrich and enliven discussion for years to come."
"Fans of Newman's first Columbia performance of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue will be glad to have this one. It's not as virtuosic as Andreas Staier's on German Harmonia Mundi (J/F 1996) but more exciting. My verdict: if you have missed the aggressive optimism that Americans brought to the period-instrument craze 20 or 30 years ago, Anthony Newman is just what the doctor ordered."
"…the Mostly Mozart Festival's 'Bach Harpsichord Extravaganza' on Thursday night at Avery Fisher Hall had its charms and even its moments of real artistic conviction." "…the most direct and intensely personal performance of the night came with the one concerto for a single solo instrument, the familiar Concerto for Harpsichord in D minor (BWV 1052). Here Anthony Newman had free rein to display his own defiantly individual playing style, with its Gouldian Intensity and abrupt, slashing ornamentation (including an exuberant cadenza in the final movement)."
J.S. Bach Keyboard Series (Volume 4, 3 CDs — 44 Tracks)
"Anthony Newman's immense physical talent for playing keyboard instruments is certainly basic to his prolific ventures in the music business. On Sunday afternoon at Holy Trinity Church, Mr. Newman roared through six Mendelssohn organ sonatas and three Preludes and Fugues as if the effort were barely worth mentioning. It is perhaps this easy fluency and high energy level that allows him to pursue so many things — piano, fortepiano and harpsichord performances, conducting, composing and editing…The sheer kinetic force of the playing had its visceral charm, and Sunday's large audience reacted enthusiastically to the frequent bursts of power… …Mr. Newman is simply an organist for our time — hard-hitting, action-packed, hugely skilled…these are star qualities… a star he most certainly is."
"The bird collection, which opened the program, included Messiaen's richly inventive "Chants Oiseaux," sandwiched between two Baroque works, Rameau's "Poule" and Daquin's "Coucou." These scores are not just bird-song mimicry, of course: Rameau, Daquin and Messiaen wove their birdcalls into their more abstract musical discourses, offering moments of evocative imitation here and there. Mr. Newman balanced these works' sinews and pictorial frills sensibly, and drew fully on the coloristic resources of the church's Aeolian-Skinner organ. His inventiveness with color was evident elsewhere, too, most notably in his alternation of flute and reed timbres in Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E (BWV 548) and an unusually brisk account of the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C (BWV 582), which closed the concert."
"That may be taking purity beyond the limits of practicality, but Mr. Newman's performances were certainly vivid. They were also played more briskly than one often hears them; bur Mr. Newman supported his tempos by citing the writings of Charles Tournemire, one of Franck's students. More crucially, he approached Franck's registrational contrasts with virtuosic fluidity, drawing easily on a wide, contrasting timbral palette. Even such comparatively modest works as the Fantasies in A major and C major, the "Prière" and the Cantabile in B minor became wonderfully textured and sometimes dramatic essays. The combination of the organ's attractively transparent coloration and Mr. Newman's vibrant approach made for an especially lovely rendering of the popular Prélude, Fugue et Variation. And the splashier, more openly picturesque works — the "Pièce Héroïque" and the "Grand Pièce Symphonique," for instance — benefited from unflaggingly robust performances and an almost cinematic variety breadth."
"The first part of the recital Newman ended with his own delicate composition in a style of the French organ music of the XX century: Adagio and Toccata from the II Symphony. In the second part of the recital, he brilliantly played Grande Piece Symphonique op. 17 by Cezar Franck; in the end, he returned to Bach. I must admit that I have never heard such a monumental and ravishing performance of Passacaglia and Fugue c-minor BWV 582 played live."
"These four music cassettes, which have just come out from Newport Classic, can only be described as "incredible." "…these organ recordings so thoroughly overturn the way we are used to hearing Bach's organ music played, and not in an eccentric sense that they should not be taken seriously, but rather they are quite serious." "…the organist Anthony Newman…possesses unbelievable technical skills, and not only in the sense that he can play incredibly fast." "What now makes this recording so interesting is that it is so passionately gripping, it is so musical and played in such a way that it does even not bother with traditions as we know them….rather it seems to go its own new way." "…they are always sparkling, inspiring, musical and never boring." "…the recording is so inspiring, so exciting, that you will want to listen to it for hours on end. This recording has doubtlessly upped the bidding as to where the limits of performance are."
"Ears more attuned than mine to the fine specifics of organ building will have to judge just how well Rieger has met the challenge, but Mr. Newman's demonstration of the instrument's versatility was stunningly convincing. He exploited its responsiveness of touch to the utmost. He has the virtuoso command of fingerwork to achieve brilliant distinctness at high speed (runs played too smoothly will blur together). His flair for theatrical, propulsive rhythms is exciting; his ornamentation is unusually fluent and unmannered. His pedalwork in the F major toccata, S. 540, was spectacular: If one insisted on counting along, it was evident that he played a bit slower than when the corresponding fast passages came around on the manuals, but the impression was of unbroken velocity, headlong yet fully under control."
Newport Classics series of recordings of Bach organ works is in several ways a revelation. First, there's this organist, Anthony Newman, who rolls even Bach's most difficult works off his fingers (and beneath his feet) as if he were born to it. There's something indescribably comforting and reassuring about listening to a performer who you know is in total control." "Newman never presumes to conquer Bach — only to interpret him in the most tasteful but imaginative way possible. Newman convinces you with technical perfection and with some of the most inspired registration you're every likely to hear."
"The way to get more people to the Allied arts organ series is to have more performances of the type Anthony Newman brought to Orchestra Hall Friday." "…serious, dedicated playing is no match for the excitement Newman generates." "He revealed two very great advantages over the majority of his predecessors. First, he made superior use of the resources of the instrument. Newman obviously is a master of registration; he blends organ sounds with acute skill." "…he projects his energy and insight. His strong commitment to the music shows in his playing and sweeps you along. Everything he does seems to capture the imagination." "Here were two of the greatest works revealed in their fullest glory." "…Newman the composer was heard in two ingenious and attractive improvisations and his variations on the 'The Battle hymn of the Republic'."
"The first half of the concert was devoted to French organ works of the late 19th century, the second to J.S. Bach. French composers, including those heard Tuesday, Charles-Marie Widor, Cesar Franck and Louis Vierne, exploited the massive symphonic sound available on organs of their time and Newman was not shy about letting loose his instrument's power. But sonic effects were carefully controlled, though the changes in volume in the opening work, the allegro movement of Widor's organ Symphony No. 6 seemed abrupt. The scherzo movement of Vierne's Organ Symphony No. 2 had a jaunty ragtime feel to it, the organ at times sounding like a hurdy-gurdy."
"Anthony Newman is an authentic virtuoso, and the key word there is authentic. His performances combine a deep and wide-ranging scholarship, compelling musicianship, fluent technical skill and an "X" factor of presence that takes audiences on a trip back in time." "Newman's brief discourses were illuminating and entertaining, and flowed like his music from a lifetime of knowledge." "And Newman plays them both with breathtaking pace and skill, doing all the mechanical business of organ playing with the aplomb of an Olympic athlete — pulling knobs, shoving keyboards, kicking pedals, wrestling with the gigantic Ahrend Baroque tracker organ in Beall Hall as if to throw the beast to the ground. "
"It was a midnight mass of the brightest colors, a celebration of music itself. Anthony Newman played Bach on the Kennedy Center's much neglected Concert Hall organ as Saturday turned to Sunday, and well over 1,000 people stayed up and cheered." "It was a celebration of the organ, an instrument that not even the human voice can surpass in its power to envelop all the senses. Organ and organist both were models of commanding clarity and authoritative splendor. Newman was particularly majestic in the double-pedaled chorale and prelude of "An Wasserfluessen Babylon," as well as in the famous Prelude and Fugue in D Major. And the serenity that settled on 'Schmuecke dich, o liebe Seele' never left him throughout the morning."