Of German and Mexican ancestry, Anthony Newman was born in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 1941. His mother, a professional dancer and amateur pianist, arranged for him to have piano lessons when, at the age of four, he began to play the family piano by ear. He first heard the music of JS Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 5) at the age of five and was, as he tells it, "delighted, elated and fascinated." He could read music before he could read words. At five he decided his instrument would be the organ after hearing his first Bach organ recording (Toccata and Fugue in D Minor) but had to be content with the piano until, at age ten, his feet could first reach the organ pedals. From the age of ten to seventeen he studied organ with Richard Keys Biggs.
At eighteen, Newman traveled to Paris to study with Pierre Cochereau (organ), Madeleine de Valmalete (piano), and Marguerite Roesgen-Champion (harpsichord) at l'École Normale de Musique. He received the Diplóme Supériere, with the commendations of the legendary pianist Alfred Cortot. Returning to the United States, Newman studied organ with Edgar Hilliar, piano with Edith Oppens and composition with William Sydemann at the Mannes School of Music where he received his B.S. in 1963. In 1964, Newman won the Nice prize for organ composition. While a master's student in composition at Harvard University he studied composition with Leon Kirchner and worked as a teaching fellow at Boston University. He attended Boston University for his doctoral degree studying organ there with George Faxon and composition with Gardner Read and Luciano Berio for whom he also served as a teaching assistant.Early Career (1967-1979)
Newman's professional debut, under the auspices of Young Concert Artists, in which he played Bach organ works on the pedal harpsichord, took place at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York in 1967. Of this performance the New York Times wrote, "His driving rhythms and formidable technical mastery...and intellectually cool understanding of the structures moved his audience to cheers at the endings." Based solely on the Times' review, and without an audition, Columbia Records signed him to a recording contract.
Clive Davis, head of Columbia Records, taking his cue from the prevailing anti-establishment sentiment among young people and Newman's long hair and interest in Zen meditation, marketed Newman as a counterculture champion of Bach would could draw young audiences. As a result, according to Newman, it took some years for him to "live down" the image created by Davis and to be taken seriously in the classical music world. But Newman did indeed draw young audiences as noted by Time magazine in a 1971 article in which they dubbed him the "High Priest of the harpsichord." Newman's rapid tempos and use of rhythmic alterations and improvised ornamentation aroused controversy in those early years and, although now many early music performers have adopted faster tempos and Newman's emphasis on authentic baroque performance practice, there continues to be controversy about Newman's style.Later Career (1980 - Present)
After recording twelve albums for Columbia Records, Newman left along with pianist André Watts, another of Davis' protégés, when Davis left Columbia in 1979. Since then, Newman has made over 200 recordings for a variety of labels including Digitech, Excelsior, Helicon, Infinity Digital, Sony, Vox, Newport Classic, Sheffield, Sine Qua Non, Deutsch Grammophon, and 903 Records among others. Recently, 903 Records released two large CD sets by Newman: The Complete Collected Organ Works of JS Bach (9 CDs) and The Complete Collected Harpsichord Works of JS Bach (10 CDs). It is unlikely that any other world-class musician has ever recorded both of these monumental collections.
For thirty years, starting in 1968, while Newman continued to record, concertize, compose, conduct and write, he taught music at The Juilliard School, Indiana University, and State University of New York at Purchase.
Although initially intensely interested in composition, Newman became discouraged by the non-tonal music that was the focus of conservatory composition departments in the 50s and 60s. He returned to composition in the 1980s and developed a post-modern compositional style that took over from where pre-atonal, post-modernism left off. He makes use of musical archetypes from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries as well as 20th century archetypes he has devised himself. In 2014, 903 Records released a 20-CD set of his most important compositions.