Alexander Biggar, Importer of Musical Instruments, &c., 102, Sauchiehall
In no one thing have the predominant effects of foreign influence been more noticeable than throughout all matters connected with the British musical world. Foreign masters we have with us in plenty, and, naturally, foreign instruments and foreign compositions follow in their wake ; yet, through the want of any definite agency, it has been more as a matter of chance than from any other cause, with the result that while many excellent examples have failed to reach us, many others not nearly so good have succeeded in attracting attention. Mr. Alexander Biggar, of the above address, has stepped forth to the rescue, and has made it the special province of his business as a music-seller to be well supplied not only with the standard, but the latest musical compositions and instruments of foreign origin. The firm was established in 1870 at 163, Sauchiehall Street, under the style of James Biggar & Co. The present premises, at No. 102 in the same street, have been occupied since 1881.
The shop is large and pleasingly decorated, the fittings being appropriated to their purpose in a very harmonious manner. The stock of instruments is very large and for the most part personally selected, as a guarantee for its being the best of its kind. The pianos include both the grand and the ordinary cottage forms, and are a most representative variety by all the principal London and foreign makers. With regard to the latter, Mr. Biggar has opened up a large connection in France and Germany for the supply of all classes of stringed instruments and their fittings, &c. A speciality is the School Board piano, an instrument which he has made expressly for the exhibition in Glasgow this year, combining as it does smallness of size with considerable volume of tone, a delicate touch, and great lasting qualities, at a moderate price.
The selection of parlour organs is no less complete than that of pianos, and represents the manufacture of all the principal American or Canadian firms. A form of these organs, called “The Church Organ — Par Excellence” which Mr. Biggar has been instrumental in introducing to the public, deserves a few words. It was exhibited at the International Inventions Exhibition in 1885, and was much admired for its powerful and beautiful tone, the variety of quality and pitch in the different stops, and the absence of “dummies”. In size it is not larger than an ordinary full-sized harmonium, but in power and readiness of modulation it is far superior. The tone so closely resembles that of a pipe organ as to be readily mistaken for it. The largest of the three sizes in which it is made is very suitable for recitals or for church use, being loud enough to accompany the singing of a good congregation without using the full power, and yet so completely under control as to be capable of being instantly reduced to the most delicate pianissimo. The keyboard projects, as in the pianoforte and ordinary pipe organ, giving the performer much more freedom of range and ready control than is usually the case in these instruments.
The stock of violins and violoncellos exhibited by Mr. Biggar is of very high class, and has been personally selected in the best workshops of the Continent, including the celebrated ones of Mirecourt in France, and Markneukirchen in Saxony. Bows and strings from similar sources are of equally good quality and variety. The Italian strings imported by Mr. Biggar are of particular excellence. In addition to the various little matters which are naturally procurable in a musical instrument warehouse such as this, there are a great variety of music-stands, instrument-cases, and every description of fittings for stringed instruments.
Mr. Biggar undertakes repairs, tuning, &c., and quite a large business is done all round Glasgow in these items alone. The stock of music, solo and concerted, for stringed instruments is particularly complete, and includes the publications of some five-and-twenty of the most celebrated Continental houses, including Johann Andre, Bote and Bock, Conte, Hofmeister, Litolff, Ricordi, Tonger, Weiss, and Breitkopf and Hartel, for whom Mr. Biggar is local agent. With all these firms Mr. Biggar is in weekly communication, acting as their agent for the introduction of their works into Scotland. A forthcoming catalogue, combining the works of the best publishers, will be of great utility, not only to those engaged in the musical trade, but to professors and amateurs also. It has been prepared by Mr. Biggar, and is in a far advanced state for issue.
Mr. Biggar has a very beautifully arranged exhibit at the International Exhibition held in Glasgow this year, where his various pianos, organs, and stringed instruments, &c., form an attractive object in the centre of the Music Court ; but the piece de resistance of the exhibit, which will render it one of the most interesting, is the case of stringed instruments, with bows in silver and gold mountings, which have been specially selected by Mr. Biggar in France and Germany, and which have already been much admired by connoisseurs in things musical. Of special interest is a complete quartett of two violins, viola, and violoncello made from one tree, of beautifully marked wood, two hundred years old, and perfect in make and finish.
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