> Francis Jackson [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Francis JACKSON (born 1917)
Edinburgh Fanfare (1957)
Five Preludes on English Hymn Tunes Op.60 (1987)
Impromptu Op.5 (1944)
Three Pieces Op.17 (1955)
Division on Nun Danket Op.19 No.2 (1956)
Prelude on Lonesome Valley Op.43 No.2 (1973)
Recessional Op.32 (1963)
Sonata Giocosa Op.42 (1972)
Francis Jackson at the organ of Hull City Hall and of York Minster
Recorded: Hull City Hall, January 1986 and York Minster, 1973 (Sonata Giocosa)
AMPHION PHI CD 180 [74:50]


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This selection of organ music by Francis Jackson spans some forty years of his long and busy career. The earliest piece here is the beautiful Impromptu Op.5 written for the 70th birthday of Jackson’s teacher, Sir Edward Bairstow.

The Three Pieces Op.17 (1955) were commissioned by Novello. Each piece is dedicated to a member of the composer’s family. A stately Processional is followed by a beautiful Arabesque capped by an appropriately brilliant Pageant. At about the same time Jackson wrote some smaller-scale works such as the Edinburgh Fanfare (1957) originally scored for brass and organ, and the Division on "Nun Danket" Op.19 No.2 (1956) which was also a commission from Novello.

The Recessional Op.32 (1963), dedicated to the composer’s third child, is another brilliant Toccata so much beloved by organists. The Prelude on " Lonesome Valley" Op.43 No.2 (1973) is based on a pentatonic tune set to the words "Jesus walked this lonesome valley".

The Sonata Giocosa per Rinascità di una Cattedrale Op.42 (1973) was commissioned to celebrate the end of the five-years’ restoration programme on York Minster. It opens with a Cadenza-Andante "expressing the feelings of disquiet and anxious concern at the precarious state of the fabric". This is followed by an animated Scherzo evoking the activity and the turmoil caused by the repair work. The piece ends with a majestic Galliard. The music quite appropriately quotes – and sometimes distorts – the well-known hymn tune York.

The Five Preludes on English Hymn Tunes Op.60 (1984) is the most substantial work here. St. Magnus, for the 120th anniversary of the Episcopal Church of St Magnus, Lerwick, is based on a tune by Jeremiah Clarke. Veni Sancte Spiritus handles the hymn tune in much the same way as in Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and the music flows peacefully throughout this lovely piece. St. Bartholomew, for St Bartholomew’s Church in Brighton, is based on a tune by Henry Duncalf. East Acklam, on a tune that Jackson wrote in 1957, acts as the suite’s slow movement. (East Acklam is the name of the Yorkshire village where Francis Jackson lives.) The last piece and – to some extent – the most complex of the set is based on Vaughan Williams’s hymn tune Sine Nomine, and provides for a grand conclusion.

It is good to have these old recorded performances, which incidentally still sound quite well, back into the catalogue. Francis Jackson is without doubt a most distinguished composer whose beautifully crafted music deserves to be widely appreciated.

Hubert Culot

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