In a golden age of organ-building, Merton College’s new Dobson instrument stands out as exceptional. It is only the third American-built organ sent to the UK since the Second World War, a bold commissioning choice which Benjamin Nicholas, Reed Rubin Organist and Director of Music in Merton’s recently established choral foundation, and his colleagues made after considering three factors. The College required an instrument that could sympathetically accompany its daily choral services – with sufficient flexibility to accommodate the works of many eras – and that honoured the Chapel’s ancient architecture.
The instrument also had to be equipped to perform a large part of the solo repertoire, and it is the success of this third aim that Benjamin Nicholas sought to demonstrate when putting together the programme for the instrument’s first recorded outing. From the pre-pedalboard sophistication of native Stanley, to the mesmerising hues of Messiaen – and encompassing snapshots from the instrument’s vast literature in between – no inquisitive listener will feel short-changed by the gluttony of textures and colours on display here. In his debut appearance on disc as a soloist, Benjamin Nicholas combines flair and intelligence as he presents the stunning instrument he helped mastermind.