Donald 4

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.

A proud Wellingtonian, Donald commenced harpsichord studies with Douglas Mews at Victoria University, and during his undergrad years became a regular keyboardist with the NZSO in 2000. Joining Stroma in 2001 and following the death of the composer that year, he played the rarely-performed Naama for amplified harpsichord by Iannis Xenakis.

In 2003, Donald moved to the Netherlands to undertake postgraduate studies at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague with early music legend Ton Koopman, focussing on the interpretation of the sixteenth-century English virginal music and the keyboard music of seventeenth-century France. Returning to New Zealand in 2007, Donald continued an active career across the country as a keyboardist. Under the baton of Marc Taddei, Donald performed Poulenc’s beloved Concert Champêtre with Orchestra Wellington in 2010, on his rare 1956 Thomas Goff instrument (the harpsichord being the focus of an insightful RNZ documentary, “the Rise and Fall of Harpsichord 6” by James Gardner).

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.

Donald was appointed organist and assistant musical director at Wellington’s St Mary of the Angels in 2008 staying there 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.  They have released two albums.

Donald’s extensive discography encapsulates his diversity and broadness as a musician, ranging from William Byrd (Latitude 37: Royal Consorts) to John Psathas (Helix).