Bach: Christmas Organ Music; Inventions, Sinfonias, Fantasias & Fugues for harpsichord

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Christmas Organ Music; Inventions, Sinfonias, Fantasias & Fugues for harpsichord
PERFORMER: Nicholas Jackson (organ, harpsichord)
Jackson puts the splendid organ of New College Oxford through its paces in the first of these discs. The delightful tinkling of a distant cymbelstern introduces ‘In dulci jubilo’, 13 Christmas and New Year Preludes from the Orgelbüchlein reveal a kaleidoscope of ever more varied colours, and the organ’s ‘lungs’ are tested in the mighty ‘Gravement’ of BWV 572. Jackson handles counterpoint transparently – the Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch are especially effective – though at times his rhythmic flexibility seems wayward rather than expressive, and a stolid tempo inhibits the dancing Prelude of BWV 547.


The organ is excellently recorded, distant enough to create three-dimensional depth as well as stereo breadth, yet within earshot of the characterful ‘chiff’ of its quiet flue pipes. Not so the harpsichord which occupies the second disc, which is close, assertive and has a hard metallic edge to the tone, though the instrument boasts a fine pedigree – a Taskin copy by David Rubio. Jackson plays with uninhibited spirit, effective in the Chromatic Fantasia which opens the disc, though frenetic, even wearisome, in the heavily registered fugue. Two bonuses are Jackson’s own imaginative completion of the fugue of BWV 906 together with a ‘new’ Fantasia and Fughetta, realised from a Bach figured bass. George Pratt