The "Jig" Fugue in G Major of J.S. Bach, as performed by the one and only Virgil at NHK Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
Virgil hated this organ and almost didn't go through with this concert until certain things about it were "fixed" to his liking, but even
then it still fell far short of his expectations. It sounds electronic on this recording, although at the time it was a brand new pipe organ that had been built and installed by the German firm of Schuke.
His artistic standards were very high,
and his audience reactions showed it.
If the definition of "genius" is one who makes a science out of an art and an art out of a science, Virgil did this at every performance. Notice the low wrists, lots of finger movement from the knuckle down,
playing on the tips of the fingers, the playing of pedals "as you walk" (in other words, no play with "knees together," the knee kept above the ankle at all times), no turning of the hands right to left, thumbs rarely, if ever, on the black keys, the slight
bit of slouching to keep tension out of the forearms from the lowered wrists (no stiffening the back to sit straight, never turning the entire body to reach anything), and the detached touch which a phrasing included in these brisk, clean passages. He
was a technician without peer. The mannerisms and eccentricities took no part in tone production and were simply for visual effect, part of his "showmanship."
This video also makes obvious that he memorized everything, even the organ parts to
major orchestral works which he could perform flawlessly at tornadic speed and perfect timing with full symphony orchestras. At solo recitals while on tour he almost always spoke to his audiences, told them what to listen FOR, then gave them something
extraordinary to listen TO. He became, for them, an evangelist for the instrument and its literature. Curiously, there were many organists who criticized him for talking to his audience. The simple fact was, he HAD an audience, and usually
a large one. They did not.
This so-called "Bach Gamut" concert was recorded in June of 1977, very late in Virgil's career at a time when he was dying of multiple myeloma (bone cancer, from contracting prostate cancer the year before) and was undergoing
treatment that had him feeling sick all the time, greatly weakened, and in a great deal of pain. The fact that he could still summon the stamina to concentrate on playing some of the most intricately beautiful music ever written all the while managing
to summon a smile through this concert is a testimony to his determination, drive, and dedication as a performing artist.