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JACKSON Nicholas Sir
Music for Trumpets and Organ

Sonata da Chiesa*; Organ Mass; Suite from The Reluctant Highwayman*;
Organ Sonata; Prelude, Fugue, Soliloquy and Caprice*;
Concert Variations on Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; Elevation and Toccata (from Four Images); Toccata in G minor; A Flourish for Rosemary*; Wedding March.
* Pieces for trumpet(s) and organ, recorded in St John the Evangelist, Islington (September, 1999). The pieces for organ alone were recorded in Chartres Cathedral (October, 1999).
Nicholas Jackson (organ)  Maurice Murphy and Rod Franks (trumpet)
Naxos 8.554773 [76:34]
Crotchet     Amazon UK  AmazonUS  

Born in 1934, Sir Nicholas Jackson enjoys the distinction (unique, so far as I know) of having been the only baronet in the last century to occupy the post of a cathedral organist (he was at St David's Cathedral from 1977 to 1984). I've often wondered what happened to him subsequently: my guess is that he gave up his cathedral post to devote himself to composition and recital work. It's a fair guess also that he took up residence in France, for reasons which will become apparent.

Originally destined to become an architect, Jackson was a relatively late developer in music: he did not take up the piano until he was 14, or composition until he was 30. From his father he inherited a great love of French music, and the influences on his compositions are overwhelmingly French - notably Messiaen, Tournemire, Langlais and Dupré. Indeed, without knowing otherwise, the listener to this music could well be forgiven for assuming that the composer was a Frenchman.

In the opening Sonata da Chiesa, for instance, the influence of Dupré is evident in the canonic devices employed. In the more reflective pieces, the improvisational style of Tournemire is recalled, and over everything hovers the harmonic language of Messiaen. Nevertheless it would be quite wrong to suggest that Jackson's music is merely derivative. He has a distinctive voice of his own, nowhere more so than in his brilliantly idiomatic writing for the trumpet.

His dazzling variations on Praise to the Lord, the Almighty constitute a marvellously inventive tour de force (though Jackson cheerfully confesses that Variations VII and VIII 'don't quite work'!). But Jackson is also devoted to the music of the eighteenth century, and The Reluctant Highwayman Suite (which was to form the basis of an opera of that name, first performed in 1995) is a delicious fusion of baroque and contemporary French styles (incidentally, it would make a splendid work for brass band). The two wedding pieces with which the disc ends can be warmly recommended to any adventurous couple (and organist) looking for alternatives to Mendelssohn, Wagner et al. My one criticism would be that he is over-fond of the French toccata formula, which appears several times on this disc and falls prey to repetitiveness.

Jackson is a superb interpreter of his own music, and is well served by the distinguished principal trumpeters of the LSO. The sound of both organs and trumpets is faithfully captured. The instrument at Chartres in particular is of course ideally suited to Jackson's music, though I find the sound of the full organ disagreeably dense and bloated.

Adrian Smith



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