Donald Nicolson, harpsichordist, organist and pianist
Listed among Australia’s best classical performers by the ABC in 2019, harpsichordist, organist and pianist Donald Nicolson is a prominent figure in performance and research of the music of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, and in high demand as a keyboardist, composer, and arranger. Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Donald commenced harpsichord studies with Douglas Mews at Victoria University, and subsequently at the Royal Conservatorium, The Hague with early music legend Ton Koopman. There he focussed on the performance of sixteenth-century English virginal music and the seventeenth-century French clavecin school.
Since 2011, Donald has been based in Melbourne maintaining a busy performing schedule in the early music scene and on the orchestral platform. A sought-after continuo player, Donald frequently performs with Pinchgut Opera, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Van Diemen’s Band, and regularly collaborates with Australia’s early music specialists. He works regularly as a pianist, harpsichordist and organist for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and has directed numerous performances from the harpsichord for the MSO and ACO.
Donald graduated with a PhD in Musicology at the University of Melbourne in 2018, submitting a thesis that focussed on the relationship between seventeenth-century French social history and the keyboard preludes of Louis Couperin. An avid reader of the classics and ancient rhetoric Donald teaches historically-informed performance practice at the University of Melbourne, and gives regular talks and lectures on music and history.
Donald is co-founder of ARIA-nominated trio, Latitude 37. The ensemble is one of Australia’s most recognised period-instrument ensembles, performing regularly in Victoria and New South Wales. In 2009 and 2011 the trio undertook two Chamber Music New Zealand tours. Latitude 37 directed the musical performances for the New Zealand Dance Company’s season of Michael Parmenter’s OrphEus – a dance opera for the Auckland and New Zealand Festivals in 2018. Four CDs have been released with ABC Classics.
As an organist, Donald was appointed assistant musical director at Wellington’s St Mary of the Angels in 2008 until 2010. Following his relocation to Melbourne, Donald has been organist at the Congregation of Mark the Evangelist in North Melbourne since 2012.
Donald is also a key member of Anja & Zlatna, an ensemble which performs the folk music of the Balkans and infuses it with the improvisational practices of the seventeenth century. The ensemble has released two albums, part of an extensive discography that encapsulates Donald’s well-known diversity and broadness as a musician, ranging from William Byrd (Latitude 37: Royal Consorts) to John Psathas (Helix).