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.