The Music of Richard Pantcheff - Volume 2:
Music for Choir and Orchestra
Our next CD with Orchid Classics is OUT NOW.
This second volume of the music of Richard Pantcheff brings together a rich selection of works by this composer right across the very wide spectrum of his oeuvre. It includes works for unaccompanied choir, choral/vocal pieces with string orchestra (including, on occasions, solo brass), and two works for orchestra and solo brass alone. The composer has orchestrated a number of the pieces specifically for this recording.
Whilst working through Richard’s scores in the planning stages of Volume 1, it was clear there were works that we would not be able to include due to both time and scoring constraints. Even then, Richard and I both expressed enthusiasm for a second volume, which we felt could take a different direction in both scope and scale from the first. Once Volume 1 had been released, Richard and I were soon exchanging scores and thoughts for a second volume. The Frankfurt Canticles were an obvious choice: this brilliant setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis was omitted from Volume 1 only because we were already including two contrasting Canticle settings (one for upper voices and one for lower voices). A couple of shorter, unaccompanied, and highly-effectively choral pieces were specifically held back from Volume 1 in order to provide variety in the programming of Volume 2.
The thrust behind Volume 2 was always to profile Richard’s larger scale works for choir, orchestra, and soloists. Both Domine Exaudi and Psalm 91 were perfectly scaled examples of works for choir and orchestra, which we knew would work well. The danger, however, is to fill an album with lots of short, contrasting pieces, lacking any structure or journey for the listener. The backbone of this album is three main building-blocks. The first is the vibrant Missa Brevis, written for choir, strings and trumpet. Brilliantly scored to maximise the forces, it is full of colour and fizzing with energy. The second building-block consists of the two beautiful settings for tenor solo and strings. Both The Sun’s Arising and Litany to the Holy Spirit are imbued with such a warmth and intensity, the listener is immediately drawn into something profound from the opening few bars of both. Finally, the structure is completed by the two Nocturnus settings. Scored for flugelhorn and strings, they provide a real contrast to the sung repertoire. Both are incredibly atmospheric. I remember being blown away by how effective these two pieces are when hearing them performed live for the first time in the recording sessions. They are rich in colour and intensity and show yet another brilliant facet to Richard’s composing.
The ‘difficult second album’ syndrome is well known in all areas of music, and both Richard and I have been acutely conscious of this. I genuinely believe this is a disc as fresh and engaging – perhaps even more so – as Volume 1. There is a breadth and depth to much of the music, making it a natural successor to the previous recording. I continue to be transfixed and engaged by Richard’s music, and I am sure this album will prove similarly captivating to those listening.
- Michael Waldron
The African-Caribbean Elegy (Opus 70) by Richard Pantcheff is a cycle of three part-songs for mixed choir written in 2009. The words are all by famous West Indian poets, reflecting on the nature of cultural and historical links between West Indian and African peoples. The work was premiered in Johannesburg in 2010.
The time that the composer was living in Barbados coincided with a significant increase in popular interest in exploring the ethnic and cultural connections between West Indian peoples, their traditions and history, and those of Africa (West Africa in particular).
By 2009, the composer had moved to South Africa, and was able to consider the African – West Indian cultural connections from the other end of that continuum. It proved to be a fascinating subject, and one which caught the interest of Michael Dingaan, a key figure in the South African musical world. Michael commissioned the composer to write a new work for his Chamber Choir of South Africa, an ensemble of young black professional singers in Johannesburg.
The Music of Richard Pantcheff - Volume 1: Choral Music
A stunning album of world-premiere recordings showcasing the choral music of British composer Richard Pantcheff, in mesmerising performances by the London Choral Sinfonia directed by Michael Waldron, with pianist Matthew Fletcher and organist Jeremy Cole. The music of Richard Pantcheff, who was mentored by Britten in the last year of that composer's life, has a broad appeal, encompassing the intensity of his Four Poems of Stephen Crane, the intimacy of Turn again unto thy rest, the breadth of his St. Paul's Service, and the melodic brilliance of Spirit of Mercy and Veni Sancte Spiritus. Alongside many of his sacred works we hear the secular King Henry VIII's Apologia, a work of electrifying virtuosity. As conductor Michael Waldron puts it, 'Pantcheff's music is steeped in the choral tradition but never slips into pastiche: I find it original, inspired and at all times profound. There is music on the album to suit all tastes, and I hope people hearing Richard's music for the first time will develop the same love for it as I have.'
O Holy Night
London Choral Sinfonia's first recording with Orchid Classics was released in November 2019 and debuted at #1 on the Amazon Classical Chart, and #5 on the UK Chart.
The album was received with high critical acclaim, and was selected by BBC Music Magazine, The Guardian and The Daily Mail as a top pick for Christmas albums. It was also Naxos Denmark's 'Record of the Month'.
'A substantial Christmas banquet from Michael Waldron and a rich-toned LCS, bringing together carols both traditional and modern. Warming.'
– The best new Christmas classical music releases
'...try O Holy Night – lustily sung by the London Choral Sinfonia, directed by Michael Waldron (Orchid Classics): with less obvious choices but favourites too, several in the much loved David Willcocks arrangements.'
– From cantatas to carols: the best classical Christmas albums of 2019
'Everything's appealingly sincere and direct, Waldron and his rich-toned London Choral Sinfonia eschewing the gimmicky and the glib ... All handsomely sung: there's not a dud track on this album.'
– Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas CDs 1
'If it is carols that you want, then I cannot recommend this new disc enough ... all lustily sung by the young professionals of the London Choral Sinfonia, which means that the lovely descants are all thrillingly in place.'
– Christmas CD Round-Up
'This generous programme of mainly traditional hymns and carols is greatly distinguished by the choice of settings for traditional texts and selection of arrangements for familiar melodies. ... [It] explores not only the high musical value of many short, seasonal pieces but creates an atmosphere of mystery, awe and intense reflection.'
'For anyone looking for an ‘all-rounder’ Christmas album that combines festive crowd-pleasers alongside more adventurous off-piste choral works, O Holy Night would be absolutely ideal.'
– Simon Cummings, 5:4
'Those who want their carols straight would be better off with O Holy Night (Orchid Classics), with the London Choral Sinfonia under Michael Waldron.'
– The Top Ten Festive Albums