Joseph Nolan is surely one of Perth’s hidden musical treasures. He is ex-Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, St James’ Palace, London, and currently organist and master of the choristers at St George’s Cathedral.
In this second in a series of four lunchtime organ recitals with video projection devoted to the music of J.S. Bach, he showed off not only his formidable technique and musicianship, but also the cathedral’s mighty West Organ to their best advantage.
Opening with the massive Partita (in this case, a set of variations) on Sei gegrusset, Jesu, gutig (Hail to thee, merciful Jesus) BWV768, Nolan tastefully evoked everything from soft woodwinds to strident brass as he negotiated this veritable compendium of baroque keyboard styles with almost superhuman dexterity.
In the following “Great” Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV543, he offset the tense, often chromatic writing in the prelude with a softer palette, thus increasing the impact of the more expansively coloured dance-like fugue and its impressive cadenza; this in turn made the exclusive use of flute stops in a fleet performance of the chorale prelude Jesus Christus unser Heiland (Jesus Christ our Saviour), BWV665 both restful and poignant.
Then to the fireworks with an impressive “Dorian” Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV538, in which Nolan employed the massive 32-foot (10m) stop to devastating effect.
Here a dazzling array of colours enhanced the white-hot intensity with which he dispatched the rapid passagework, while the densely textured fugue bristled with tension.