He was an alumnus of the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore, Maryland, where he became the first student to complete the course for the coveted Artist's Diploma within a year. During August and September 1938 he played in Great Britain and Germany; Fox was the first non-German organist to perform publicly in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig — a special occasion, since J.S. Bach served as cantor of the Thomaskirche until his death, in 1750, and is buried within the church. During the Second World War Fox enlisted in the Army Air Force and took a leave of absence from Brown Memorial Church in Baltimore and the Peabody. He was promoted to staff sergeant, and played various recitals and services. After having played more than 600 concerts while on duty, he was discharged from the Army Air Force in 1946. He then served as organist at the famed Riverside Church in New York City until 1965, when he resigned to devote his considerable talents to full-time concertizing. From 1971 until 1975 he performed his famous "Heavy Organ" concerts, touring around the country with an electronic Rodgers Touring Organ, built by Rodgers Instruments that sounded credibly similar to a cathedral pipe organ. He underwent unsuccessful surgery for prostate cancer in 1976.
His last commercially released recording was made at his farewell Riverside Church concert on May 6, 1979. Fox's 50th year of concertizing began when he appeared with the Dallas Symphony in September 1980, in what was to be his final public performance. One month later, he died of cancer in Palm Beach, Florida. ------ Fox stressed pushing the limits of the instruments available to him rather than requiring that they, or his playing, be authentic to the era of the music. His style, particularly his taste for fast tempos and flashy registrations, is in counterpoint to that of many organists, notably E. Power Biggs, who took a more traditional approach to Bach and others.
Fox maintained more than 250 concert works in memory, and could call them up, playing at double speed or faster in rehearsals, which went late into the night. Many organ purists strongly criticized Fox for his unconventional interpretations of classical organ music. But on the album "Heavy Organ", in the introduction to the familiar Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, Fox summed up his approach to Bach and to music in general: "There is current in our land (and several European countries) at this moment a kind of nitpicking worship of historic impotence. They say that Bach must not be interpreted and that he must have no emotion, his notes speak for themselves. Pure unadulterated rot! Bach has the red blood.
He has the communion with the people. He has all of this amazing spirit and imagine that you could put all the music on one side of the agenda with his great interpretation and great feeling and put the greatest man of all right up on top of a dusty shelf underneath some glass case in a museum and say that he must not be interpreted! Despite his often controversial approach to organ music, it is undeniable that Virgil Fox was a musical celebrity, not unlike Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould and others of his time. He was one of the rare organists to perform on nationally televised entertainment programs in the 1960's and 1970's, such as The Mike Douglas Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and CBS Camera Three, bringing organ masterworks to mass audiences as perhaps no other organist has done before or since. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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|"Little" Fugue In G Minor (Featured in "The Paper Chase")|
|Toccata and Fugue In D Minor, BWV 565|
|Carillon de Westminster|