Jennifer Bate

organ

Jennifer Bate is in the top rank of international organists and has long been a favourite at all the world’s great festivals. Her vast repertoire ranges from the 18th century to the most modern virtuoso scores. Many composers have written for her, inspired by her phenomenal technique and ability to bring out the colours of the organ. Her recitals, in nearly 50 countries, have included over 40 in France and 150 in Italy. In 1990, Jennifer’s artistry and outstanding contribution to music received international recognition with the Personnalité de l’Année award by the French-based jury. She was only the third British artist to achieve this distinction, after Sir Georg Solti and Sir Yehudi (later Lord) Menuhin. Jennifer was elected an Academician of the Accademia Olubrense, Genoa, in 1994 and, in 1996, was granted Honorary Citizenship of the Italian province of Alessandria, for her services to music in Northern Italy over 20 years. In 2002, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, in 2007 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Bristol University, in 2008 she was awarded an OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List and, in 2011, the French Government appointed her as both an Officier of the Order of Arts and Letters and as a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

Jennifer is widely recognised as the world authority on the organ works of Olivier Messiaen, with whom she worked extensively. In 1980-82, she recorded his then complete works at Beauvais Cathedral. Each volume was heard by Messiaen prior to release and endorsed by him with great enthusiasm. All won international acclaim and she became his organist of choice, to whom he re-allocated all his own organ recitals over the last decade of his life. All her scores are marked with his personal nuances of interpretation and she continues to play his last masterpiece for organ, Livre du Saint Sacrement, from his own manuscript. Following her British première of the latter, at Westminster Cathedral (1986) with the composer present, Messiaen invited her to make the world première recording on his own instrument in Paris. This had exceptional international success, winning a Grand Prix du Disque. In 1995, Jennifer opened the Messiaen Festival at l’Eglise de la Sainte Trinité, Paris, where his complete organ works were performed and recorded. Among numerous awards for her CD were the Diapason d’Or and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Her TV programme of La Nativité (recorded live in Norwich Cathedral) was released on DVD in January 2010 by Digital Classics (1034 DC).

Her 1978 recordings of the three great organ works of Liszt are still available, together with other special offers, via her web page www.classical-artists.com/jbate. One of her most popular CDs has been the Unicorn-Kanchana Records’ Vivaldi Double and Triple Concertos, for which Jennifer researched original manuscripts to make the performing editions. Regis Records have reissued her popular Virtuoso French Organ Music, with extra works added. Her recordings of the complet e works of Franck and Messiaen, and her historic anthology From Stanley to Wesley are now available in budget boxed sets (Regis), all carrying the Penguin CD Guide’s “Top Recommendation”. Her CD of recently-discovered works by Samuel Wesley [SOMM CD036] together with its sequel, The Wesleys and their Contemporaries [SOMM CD039] (both recorded, from first editions, on an historic Bishop organ), received great critical acclaim, as did her ground-breaking recordings of The Complete Organ Works of Felix Mendelssohn (68 pieces on 5 CDs [SOMM CDs 050-4]), including some only recently discovered and never before recorded. Her latest CD, The Complete Organ Works of Peter Dickinson, was released by NAXOS in March 2009.

Recent engagements include concerts in Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Gran Canaria, Holland, Italy, Monaco and Spain. UK engagements have included a solo BBC Promenade Concert and Messiaen’s Livre du Saint Sacrement in the South Bank Messiaen Festival (Westminster Cathedral). Educational projects have included masterclasses and public lectures at Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol Universities, and the annual Jennifer Bate Organ Academy for girls.

Jennifer is also a composer. Her CD, entitled Reflections, forms a musical autobiography spanning 25 years. TV appearances include the South Bank Show on Messiaen, La Nativité du Seigneur from Norwich Cathedral (Channel 4) and profile programmes in Italy and South America. She has a deep knowledge of the history of music, lectures on a wide range of musical subjects at university level and particularly enjoys working with young people. Her pioneering education programme, A Guide to the King of Instruments (which she delivers in any of five languages) is in great demand for all age groups.

Foto: Nick Murdoch