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Sir Nicholas JACKSON (b.1934) Chamber and Organ Music
Overture The Reluctant Highwayman [0:54]
Four Temperaments [8:24]
Venetian Serenade [16:19]
Six Elizabethan Songs [11:39]
Sextet for wind quintet and harpsichord: The Reluctant Highwayman [14:12]
Three Hymns [7:00]
Four Images for Organ [11:50]
Mary Bevan (soprano)
Florian Mitrea (piano)
Viv McLean (piano)
Nicholas Jackson (organ and harpsichord)
Concertante of London (Jane Gordon (violin); Liv Marie Fletcher (violin); Eniko
Magyar, (viola); Adi Tal (cello); Jan Zahourek (bass); Graham Jackson (glockenspiel))
Galliard Wind Ensemble (Kathryn Thomas (flute); Rebecca Wood (oboe); Rachel
Brown, (clarinet); Matthew Gunner (horn); Helen Simons, (bassoon))
rec. St Paul’s School, Barnes, London, 2014 and Cathedral of Notre
Dame, Paris, 1972 (Four Images). DDD/ADD. NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6301 [70:42]
I had had only a nodding acquaintance with Nicholas Jackson as a composer
before I received this CD for review, though I was well acquainted with his
qualities as an organist and as director of his own Concertante of London
(Bach Musical Offering, etc., SOMM077 – review).
I may even have got him confused in my muddled brain with fellow organist
Francis Jackson and fellow composer Gabriel Jackson. At the very least reviewing
this recording has helped me sort out who’s who, but it has done a great deal
more than that.
Jackson’s 1977 RCA LP recording of the organ works of Richard Arnell is no
longer available but the style of his own music is not greatly dissimilar
to Arnell’s. I mention that not because it sounds in any way derivative but
for those trying to place him: both write music with a melodic basis and with
both feet in the mainstream of British music. Some would probably class the
style of both as dated, but each has a quirkiness of its own which I find
The perky overture to The Reluctant Highwayman sets the mood of this
recording very well. It’s an opera about a ‘black sheep’ of Jackson’s family
who was hanged in 1751, and it’s also been arranged as a 13-minute suite for
trumpets and organ on an attractive collection of Jackson’s music for those
two instruments on Naxos which might well be your next stop in exploring his
compositions (8.554773 – review).
For one thing the Naxos notes are more informative than the skimpy and hard-to-read
set which come with the Nimbus CD. Having listened to that Naxos album as
streamed from Qobuz,
which is also the least expensive source to purchase it, as a lossless download
at £4.79, I’m surprised to see that it appears to be available now in download
form only. More recently Naxos have recorded some of Jackson’s choral music
(8.570959 – review
The Four Temperaments, described as a concertino for piano and small
orchestra, is based on Hippocrates’ theory, as developed by Galen, of the
temperaments which govern human health, based on different combinations of
the elements of earth, air, fire and water, a theory which held sway until
well into the renaissance. As the title implies, several moods are evoked
– sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic and choleric – in this short and attractive
The Venetian Serenade for wind quintet and harpsichord is the longest
work on this recording. The movements are descriptive of Carnival, Venice
at Night, Discovering Venice, a Song heard in a Gondola, and two composers
who famously had a keyboard competition in Venice in 1708, Handel and Domenico
Scarlatti: spot the echoes of their music. Handel won the organ contest,
Scarlatti the harpsichord.
We began with the overture from The Reluctant Highwayman and two other
sections of this recording are also derived from that work: the Six Elizabethan
Songs, to words by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and a jaunty Sextet
for wind quintet and harpsichord, keyed to various sections of the opera.
The Elizabethan Songs are winningly sung by Mary Bevan. Like the rest
of the programme, this is the only available recording. If I were to be pedantic,
Robert Herrick’s Fair Daffodils (track 14) is not Elizabethan but Jacobean.
The Three Hymns are the Song of the Draper’s Company, set to
the music of the Agincourt Carol, and the English Hymnal translations of the
two hymns associated with Benediction, Tantum ergo and O salutaris
hostia, all beautifully sung by Mary Bevan.
With Nicholas Jackson himself involved in the making of this recording we
can assume authoritative performances all round. More to the point, all concerned
have done their part to make it enjoyable.
I’ve placed Jackson’s music firmly in the British tradition but his Organ
Mass on Naxos shows receptiveness to the style of Duruflé and Langlais, as
do the Four Images which round off the Nimbus CD, recorded in 1972
on the organ of Notre Dame, Paris, with his wife-to-be turning the pages.
This is the oldest recording on the album and I presume that it’s ADD – Nimbus
don’t specify – but it captures the sound of this great organ, from quiet
beginning to surging climax, very well. If I were to choose a Desert Island
work from this CD it would be these powerful organ pieces.
The notes are just about my only reservation about this attractive and varied
recording: they are printed in a small, light font, partly in red, on a coloured
background and exceedingly hard to read. We don’t even get a total playing
time for the CD. On a positive note, however, it’s helpful to have the composer’s
notes, especially his links between the various movements of the Sextet
and the opera. If I were including this review in my Download News I would
award it the Discovery of the Month accolade, for that’s what it is.