About this Recording
8.554773 - JACKSON: Trumpet and Organ Works

Nicholas Jackson (1934)

Organ works

Nicholas Jackson was born in London in 1934. His family assumed that he would become an architect, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Sir T.G. Jackson, who had designed many of the famous landmarks in Oxford, such as the Bridge of Sighs, during the late nineteenth Century. Accordingly, he was taken abroad to study architecture, and while a boy at Radley College won a competition with a design for a theatre. Despite having begun the piano at the late age of fourteen, upon leaving school he switched his attention to music and became Organ Scholar at Wadham College, Oxford, where he studied musical theory under Edmund Rubbra. His father was a good amateur violinist who, as well as being an authority on French history, loved French music. This enthusiasm was passed on to his son, and was to be a major influence in his future work as a composer.

It may seem strange that Nicholas Jackson did not begin composing until he was over thirty, but by then he was able to incorporate into his writing the complicated techniques used in the French organ music that he performed, such as the reconstructed improvisations of Tournemire, which often require one hand to play on two keyboards simultaneously. His first published composition, Mass for a Saint's Day, was recorded by the choir of Winchester Cathedral and continues to be sung all over the English-speaking world.

Nicholas Jackson used to haunt the Paris organ lofts of Notre Dame, St Clothilde and St Sulpice, sitting beside organists such as Pierre Cochereau, André Marchal, Marcel Dupré and Jean Langlais while they improvised for services. His 1985 Organ Sonata was inspired by memories of watching Dupré improvise shortly before the latter's death in 1971. This influence is particularly evident in the chorale-like melody accompanied by running sixths with which the work begins, and which reappears triumphantly in the major key during the Finale.

His Variations on 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty' also aim to capture something of an improvisation by Cochereau or Dupré, displaying all the tonal resources of a large instrument. Sometimes, as in Variations 7 and 8, a canon at the sixth between the outer parts does not quite work, but is then successful when played at the octave in the repeated section. The work consists of an Introduction and ten Variations and concludes with a short Fugato and Toccata. It was composed in 1998 and was first performed in the presence of Yehudi Menuhin.

It was at an organ recital at Notre Dame in 1971 that Nicholas Jackson met the French girl who was later to become his wife. His Four Images were written for her, and were given their first performance by the composer at a recital in Notre Dame in the following year. The Elevation and Toccata which appear on the present recording comprise two of the Images, and are intended to precede and conclude the composer's Mass for a Saint's Day. The Toccata is in fact based upon the figuration that accompanies a unison tune in the Gloria of the Mass.

When the Church updated the Liturgy, Jackson wrote his Missa Cum Jubilo, setting the new words and incorporating into it plainchant as is heard in the works of Duruflé. He then arranged it as the Organ Mass which he performed at St Clothilde in Paris, in Chartres and at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The work was published in 1984, and is dedicated to Jean Langlais, who had himself written a work for Nicholas Jackson after hearing him give a recital for Les amis de l'orgue.

Nicholas Jackson began his performing career as a harpsichordist, playing Bach's harpsichord concertos with his own chamber orchestra. His interest in early music has continued, and when composing his suite The Reluctant Highwayman, for trumpet and organ, he fused his two musical worlds and wrote it in a neo-baroque style. The work was originally performed by the composer and Maurice Murphy during their tour of Spain in 1985, and also exists in versions for orchestra and for brass quintet. The material forms the basis of Jackson's opera of the same name, which had its première at Broomhill in 1995. The opera is based on the short, sinful life of a 'black sheep' of the composer's own family, who was hanged as a highwayman in 1751. The libretto was written by a Colonel from the Ministry of Defence whom Jackson met at a dinner party, and the opera was completed within the following year. The Colonel later became Major-General Adrian Lyons, and the short fanfare A Flourish for Rosemary was written for his wedding.

Nicholas Jackson's Wedding March was composed in the early 1970s during his time as an organist at St James' Piccadilly, which was then a fashionable church for weddings. On one occasion a couple were totally unable to decide upon the music which they would walk out to. In desperation Jackson played them his own march, deceitfully telling them it was written by Louis Vierne. To his astonishment they immediately decided this was the piece they wanted, and so it was as the "Vierne Wedding March" that it received its first performance.

Jackson's Toccata in G minor forms part of the larger work Divertissement for Organ, which was commissioned by the 1984 Cardiff Festival and was first performed there. Of a performance at the International Organ Festival in Majorca, a critic wrote of it, "Divertissement is a work with a contemporary accent, brilliant yet sensitive and contrasted. The rhythmic and audacious March was topped by the Toccata. A true dissertation of technique and ingenuity".

The influence of French baroque music is also evident in Jackson's Four Pieces for Trumpet & Organ. The short Prelude, which bears allusions to a French Overture, precedes a Fugue based upon a twelve-note row, but which does not restrict itself strictly to serial disciplines. The Soliloquy is an interlude taken from Jackson's opera The Reluctant Highwayman, while the Caprice is a short, vigorous three-part invention composed especially for this recording.

Written for the 1989 Santes Creus Festival in Spain, the Sonata da Chiesa is a work in three movements, scored for two trumpets and organ. It opens calmly with a chant for the Kyrie eleison. There follows a resolute Allegro which then leads into a development section with the organ playing vigorous semiquavers, above which the trumpets repeat the Kyries at different pitches and with increasing fervour and intensity. After a bridging passage the movement concludes with a recapitulation. The second movement is a setting of the beautiful plainsong hymn Ave maris stella, which is first played on a flügelhorn and then repeated in canon, with the trumpet playing an octave higher. The Finale is an extended fanfare which is also published as the second movement of Jackson's Divertissement for Organ.

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