1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Best, William Thomas
BEST, WILLIAM THOMAS (1826-1897), English organist, the son of a solicitor, was born at Carlisle on the 13th of August 1826. Having decided upon a musical career, he received his first instruction from the cathedral organist. He applied himself especially to Bach’s music, and became a player of great skill. His successive appointments were to Pembroke chapel, Liverpool, 1840; to a church for the blind, 1847, and the Liverpool Philharmonic Society, 1848. For a short time (1854-1855) he was in London at the Panopticon in Leicester Square, the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Lincoln’s Inn chapel. In 1855 he returned to Liverpool as organist of St George’s Hall, where his performances rapidly became famous throughout England. Ill-health compelled him at last to retire in 1894. He was engaged as solo organist at all the Handel festivals at the Crystal Palace, and also as organist at the Albert Hall, where he inaugurated the great organ in 1871. He had been in the receipt of a civil list pension of £100 a year since 1880, and in 1890 went to Australia to give organ recitals in the town hall of Sydney. Best died at Liverpool on the 10th of May 1897.
His command over all the resources of his own instrument was masterly; his series of Saturday recitals at St George’s Hall, carried on for many years, included the whole field of organ music, and of music that could be arranged for the organ, ancient and modern; and his performances of Bach’s organ works were particularly fine. His own compositions for the organ, chiefly comprised in the publication entitled Organ Pieces for Church Use, have a strong and marked individuality. Best, unlike many soloists, was an all-round musician, and fully acquainted with every branch of the art. His bust, by Conrad Dressler, has been placed on the platform in front of the Liverpool organ, as a memorial of his long series of performances there.