The Organist - Jonathan Scott - T.C. Lewis Organ of Albion Church


Publication: The Organ
Date: February/April 2012
Reviewer: James Palmer

Jonathan Scott plays the TC Lewis Organ of Albion Church, Ashton-Under-Lyne

This is the best recording of an organ in a church I have heard in many years. The quality of the sound is very fine, as one may hear at the outset - the opening Allegro movement of Widor's Sixth Symphony in G minor. The microphone placing appears to be ideal, and the full sound of this remarkable late 19th- century Lewis organ is well caught without a trace of overload.

This is claimed to be the first recording ever made on this instrument, but I trust it will not be the last. Jonathan Scott has selected a mixture of short items (Mozart's K 608 Fantasia is the longest, at 9'59''; Herbert Brewer's Chanson de Matin - see page 36 for Jerrold Northrop Moore's feature on Elgar's organ music in this issue - is the shortest, at 2'47"), which work extremely well.

This is really fine playing on an unfairly neglected instrument (so far as commercial recordings of it are concerned), and all in all it came as something of a revelation to me. I hope that Jonathan Scott goes on to record some major late 19th-century repertoire on this organ - he and the instrument deserve it. The booklet contains excellent notes on the music by the organist, a full specification and short history of the organ, and some striking colour photographs. A most impressive achievement.


Publication: Pipeline - In the Pipeline (Organ Society of Western Australia)
Date: February 2012
Reviewer: Pastór de Lasala

On reading the biography of Jonathan Scott, one can hardly fail to be impressed by the breadth of music activity in which he is involved. Apart from being an organist, he is also a harpsichordist, pianist and play the harmonium. In addition to arranging and transcribing works, he has recorded piano music for television. Jonathan collaborates as a duo with his pianist brother, Tom. Together, they have produced over 20 CDs to great acclaim on their own label.

The 1895 T.C. Lewis organ at Albion Church at Ashton-Under-Lyne is largely original, having undergone a rebuilding by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1953, the work including the provision of a new console, electro-pneumatic action, the removal of the Tuba from the Solo swell box and the borrowing of two pedal stops. The current instrument has 4 manuals and pedals with 47 stops. As a matter of comparison, it is the younger sister to the important Lewis organ of 53 stops in St Paul's Melbourne (1891).

If the ingredients for a successful CD are a diverse programme, playing coming from the heart, variety of tone colour and communicating with the listener, Jonathan Scott ticks all the boxes. By his own admission in the introduction to the liner notes, Scott uses the words 'excitement' and 'sheer enjoyment' in his desire to present this wonderful instrument. From the start of Widor's majestic Allegro from the 6th Symphony until the 1st Symphony, one cannot help but empathise with the successful musical marriage of the performer's passion in the playing and his being at one with the instrument.

The programme flows like a well organised banquet with judiciously selected musical 'sorbets' providing a foil and aural relief to the larger works. This factor plus the sheer array of colour create a very pleasurable listening experience. Scott has seen fit to include some of his own transcriptions, all of them very popular works, but completely reworked here to good effect: the very pleasant pace of the Pachelbel's Canon is complemented by fluid upper parts and tonal hues.

Guilmant's March upon Handel's' Lift up your head, with its ceremonial strides and contrasting contrapuntal central section, is beautifully framed between the deliciously darting impish figures in Bossi's Scherzo which return no less mischievous as Elves in Bonnet's eponymous work.

Scott’s fine technique and clarity are most evident here. The delightful episodes in the Widor are
no less spectacular, especially the notorious complicated one with its multiple rhythms. If colour is a main feature of this CD, Ravel’s Pavane pour une Infante Défunte is a prime example of this with its line up of gorgeous solo reed voices. Lewis’ Tuba - now fortuitously unenclosed - makes its noble appearance the Cocker Tuba Tune.

Indeed, Mozart would have been satisfied to hear his Fantasy on such a substantial instrument. After all, he did call the organ ‘the king of instruments'’. The author was particularly reminded of the Mozartian epithet some years ago whilst seated at his Edegacher instrument in Salzburg Cathedral. Whilst we are treated to the grandeur of this sizeable work with large choruses, the luscious episodes on the exquisite harmonic flute are a pointed reminder of the more humble origins of this piece which was written for a diminutive organ clock.

Without intending to look for any negatives, there is only one small detail which stands out: the closing Allargando section of the Gigout Toccata. This reviewer feels that there should have been a clear break rather than drive on to the end. Although the distinct advantage of this is to ‘clear the air’ in the very generous acoustic of a French cathedral, it also serves to prepare the change of rhythmic movement in the closing bars. This is only a very minor and subjective/stylistic point which should not, in any way, detract from the overall brilliance of performance of the work.

Being a fold out format, the presentation case and twelve-page booklet of this CD has excellent photos of the organ’s two cases, the church interior and the performer. Scott has supplied succinct liner notes on the pieces, details of the organ and its specification. The whole product is handsomely and thoughtfully presented and may be purchased online from their website. The website is most definitely worth visiting and therein can be found a wealth of information. The recordings page has tempting samples of both solo and duo works. Loosen to purse strings and indulge. The France may have its Labeque sisters, but the UK has the Scott brothers.