This is the first commercially-available CD featuring the newly-restored, 3-manual, circa 1913 vintage pipe organ, by Brindley & Foster, located in the Freemasons' Hall Grand Lodge in Edinburgh, Scotland UK. The release coincides with a public re-dedication concert of the organ, to be held in March, 2010, played by recently-installed Grand Organist, Simon Nieminski. This organ has rarely, if ever, been heard outside of the Masonic community. The organ has been restored according to its original, tubular-pneumatic design, and it features a wind-driven stop combination action, as well as a device called the "Brindgradus," which is equivalent to the Crescendo Pedal on American pipe organs.
Simon Nieminski was born in London and descended from an unlikely mixture of Edwardian Japanese acrobats, Lancastrian Music Hall artistes and a Polish army veteran. He studied in London at the Royal College of Music, at Cambridge University and as Organ Scholar of York Minster. He has many years’ experience in the cathedral music tradition, currently as Organist of St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh. He was previously Organist and Master of the Music at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, where he directed a choir of choristers drawn from the Cathedral’s choir school as well as Lay Clerks. He led this choir in daily choral services, and in a busy programme of concerts, recordings and broadcasts. He has also conducted the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union in concert at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.
His work as an organist takes him around the UK and abroad, both in concert and over the airwaves, with regular visits to the USA. As a recitalist, his programmes often include unusual but attractive repertoire, and it has become his aim to play programmes which appeal to organ buffs and sceptics alike. His recordings have helped to revive the music of unjustly neglected composers, with releases on the Pro Organo label (www.zarex.com) of the Promenades en Provence by Eugène Reuchsel and the symphonies of Edward Shippen Barnes – American pupil of Louis Vierne. Reviews have included: “This is a splendid release… There is a lot of poetry here.” (The American Record Guide) and “Simon Nieminski’s playing is utterly convincing and at one stroke establishes him as a recording artist of the first rank.” (Organists’ Review.)
An interest in transcriptions has resulted in recordings of works inspired by Shakespeare, and another of Elgar, including the complete Enigma Variations (“Romantic organ playing at its best”– The Organ.) A session at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh, was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 2’s The Organist Entertains programme. A CD on St. Mary’s new Matthew Copley organ, The Organ at the Met, has been released, and was reviewed as a Star Recording in The Organ magazine (“…a triumph for both organ and organist…”)
Choir and Organ Frederick Bridge’s Flowers of the Forest and Eugene Thayer’s Auld Lang Syne Variations tap deeply and charmingly into Scottish emotions. Jeremy Cull’s atmospheric arrangement of the Adagio from Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony adds ballast to the programme, as does Parry’s Wanderer Toccata and Fugue. A flavoursome disc. - Graeme Kay