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Joseph Nolan at Selby Abbey
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita on Sei Gregusset, BWV576
Camille SAINT-SA╦NS (1835-1921)
Danse Macabre (arr. Lemare)
Julius REUBKE (1834-1858)
Sonata on the 94th Psalm
Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Symphony No.6, Op.59: Scherzo
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Symphony No.5
Joseph Nolan (Regent Classic Organ)
rec. 2016
No DVD details; Colour
SELBY SADVD003 DVD [88 mins]

Joseph Nolan’s filmed recital is the latest in a series made in Selby Abbey which has done much both to support the appeal for funds to restore its magnificent 1909 Hill organ – made internationally famous via Fernando Germani’s 1960s LPs - but also to publicize the use of the Regent Classic custom built organ, which is the instrument Nolan plays. Full specifications are provided in the booklet.

Nolan studied inter alia with Gillian Weir and Marie Claire Alain and was appointed to Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, St James’ Palace back in 2004. Four years later he moved to Australia where he took up the position of Master of Music at St George’s Cathedral, Perth. He remains an active performer and recording artist, well known for his French repertoire in particular. It’s no surprise to see him at Selby.

The A/V set-up is not too dissimilar to that for D’Arcy Trinkwon’s Selby recital with the organ centrally placed allowing some impressive shots of the abbey, both internal and external. Unlike Trinkwon, Nolan remains soberly attired. His programme meanwhile has a balanced look about it, starting with Bach and ending with Widor and including much that reflects the best qualities of his French repertoire. He opens with Bach’s Partita on Sei Gregusset, a deft series of variations during which he plays with technical eloquence, refined elegance and a fine sense of voicings. There are good shots of the manuals and Nolan’s pedaling is not to be overlooked, nor the camera pans over the organ to take in a bird’s eye of the empty abbey.

He has a sonorous workout on Lemare’s arrangement of Danse macabre where his feet are called upon in no small degree; one can note too that Nolan has a page-turner at hand in the programme. Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm takes its central Lisztian place in the programme and it’s worthwhile watching Nolan’s pedaling here in this virtuosic work, as well as seeing his marked-up score. The drama and storminess of the work is reflected in the camera work, which is both literal but also, at moments, cinematic in its sweeping effects. Indeed, at one point the camera position shots are so dizzying I wondered whether there was just not too much going on. A solution of sorts is achieved in the fugue when at one point there is a four-shot split screen – a solution as grandiloquent as the music.

Nolan’s Parisian credentials are pursued via Vierne’s Scherzo from his Sixth Symphony and in the whole of Widor’s Fifth Symphony – a work surprisingly omitted in the otherwise comprehensive booklet notes – which Nolan plays with the accomplished elegance, technical address and unflappable aplomb he displays throughout the recital. Only the merest whiff of a ‘conducting’ right hand in the Allegro cantabile – full of deft coloration – suggests anything other than total focus, not least during the famous Allegro finale.

As with Trinkwon’s filmed recital, Nolan takes his leave of the viewer by walking from the organ and out of the abbey. I’m sure there is much more to come from Selby, whose roster of guest artists is a prestigious one. They are being well served audio-visually in this attractive series.

Jonathan Woolf



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