Orchid Classics presents its second volume of choral music by Richard Pantcheff, in world-premiere recordings performed by the London Choral Sinfonia directed by Michael Waldron.
THE MUSIC OF RICHARD PANTCHEFF: VOLUME 2
1 A Prayer of St. Columba
2 Laudem Dicite
3 I Kyrie
4 II Gloria
5 III Sanctus
6 IV Benedictus
7 V Agnus Dei
8 The Sun’s Arising
Soloist: Nick Pritchard, tenor
9 Nocturnus I
Soloist: Peter Mankarious, flugelhorn
10 Domine Exaudi
11 Phos Hilaron
12 Remember, O Lord
13 The ‘Frankfurt’ Evening Canticles – Magnificat
14 The ‘Frankfurt’ Evening Canticles – Nunc dimittis
Soloist: Laurence Williams, bass
15 Nocturnus VI
Soloist: Peter Mankarious, flugelhorn
16 Litany to the Holy Spirit
Soloist: Nick Pritchard, tenor
17 Crown with love, Lord, this glad day
18 Psalm 91 – ‘Qui Habitat’
London Choral Sinfonia
Michael Waldron, conductor
Nick Pritchard, tenor
Peter Mankarious, trumpet, flugelhorn
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.
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.
Many of the choral works featured here date from the periods in the composer’s life when he held musical appointments at two highly important Anglican Churches, namely the Episcopal Church of Christ the King, Frankfurt, Germany (between 1993 and 1995); and the Anglican Church of St. George, Johannesburg, South Africa (from 2010 to 2019).
A Prayer of St. Columba (Op.80) was composed in May 2011 in response to a request from Peter Black, at that time Director of Music at St. George’s. This short work (originally scored for choir and organ, but here accompanied by a string orchestra) is most frequently used as an introit. The text is attributed to St. Columba of Iona, and the music is designed to reflect its meditative and prayerful nature. The work was first performed by the Choir of St. George’s at Evensong on Trinity Sunday, 3rd June 2012, conducted by the composer. The work has subsequently been performed in a number of the college chapels of Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK.
The short Latin motet Laudem Dicite (Op.38) is an earlier work, having been commissioned for the choir of Christ the King to sing on its tour to Rome in 1997. The text is an adaptation of verses from Revelation and the first book of St. Peter, which forms part of the Vespers Responsory for All Saints’ Day. The style of the music is fanfare-like and uplifting.
The work was premiered by its dedicatees at Mass in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome on 7th June 1997. This was followed by another performance during Sung Eucharist at the American Church in Rome (St. Paul’s-within-the-Walls) on 14th June 1997. On both occasions the work was conducted by Kathleen Bird.
In 2010 Richard Pantcheff was appointed as Composer in Residence to St. George’s Anglican Church in Johannesburg. With its fine new Rieger organ, this church closely models its music upon the British cathedral tradition and is one of the foremost exponents of this in the country. This appointment led to a significant increase in demand for Richard Pantcheff’s choral works, featuring liturgical settings, anthems and other works.
One such was the Missa Brevis of 2011 (Op.83B, not to be confused with the Missa Brevis – ‘St. Pancras’, Op.96, which was commissioned by the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music in 2016).
Interestingly, Op.83 comprises two slightly different versions of the same work. The first was a setting for use by congregation, choir, and organ using contemporary English. The composer later created a revised version in Latin, for choir and organ. The music for the Kyrie, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei is common to both, but completely new settings of the Gloria and the Sanctus were written for the Latin version. For this recording, the original organ accompaniment has been arranged for string orchestra and trumpet.
The congregational version of the Missa Brevis was first performed at St. George’s Church, Johannesburg, on Easter Day, 8th April 2012, which was also the service of dedication for the new Rieger organ at the church.
The work of the English metaphysical poets has been a strong, if intermittent, stimulus for Richard Pantcheff’s compositions over the years, and two resulting works are featured here.
The Sun’s Arising (Op.81) sets words by the great Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) and was composed in Johannesburg in late July and early August 2011.
Vaughan’s poem is one in which the cold of the winter season is likened to the soul awaiting the arrival of the Saviour, and thus the musical setting was conceived for use in Advent. As the “bright dove” descends with “spread wings”, so the “living waters flow”, and “dead trees grow”. All of this is mirrored in the increasingly rich harmonies of the accompaniment and of the singer’s phrases.
The work was first performed on Christmas Day 2011, at St. George’s Church, Johannesburg, with Sam Pantcheff the soloist, and the composer at the organ.
Whilst living in South Africa, Richard Pantcheff was also much in demand as a composer of secular and instrumental works for chamber ensembles. He was also keen to explore in his music the unique sounds and landscapes of the country. As a result, he composed a series of six short instrumental pieces (each for a different instrument or ensemble) under the umbrella title Nocturnus (Op.90), the first of which (Nocturnus I) was originally written for Flugelhorn and Organ.
It is a contemplative work, conjuring up the idea of remembrances, or reminiscences, as we dream. Its main central section is flanked by solo passages for the Flugelhorn, and it is a work full of disquiet and foreboding.
It was premiered at the magnificent Dutch Reformed Church in Wakkerstroom, South Africa, at the Gala Concert of the Wakkerstroom Music Festival on 22nd March 2014. Jevon O’Donovan (Flugelhorn) was accompanied by Marnus Greyling (Organ). For this recording, the composer has arranged the work for Flugelhorn and String Orchestra.
In early 2015, St. George’s Church, Johannesburg, decided that a professional Chamber Choir should be formed to complement the Parish Church Choir, and expand the range of music being performed in the church. The anthem Domine Exaudi (Op.90, No.5) was commissioned to celebrate the foundation of the St. George’s Chamber Choir.
It is a setting in Latin of verses 1 and 2 from Psalm 102. The music here reflects the fervent prayers of the psalmist in seeking God’s presence and concludes in being assured of it. The work was composed during November and December 2015, and first performed by the work’s dedicatees on 23rd March 2016, conducted by the composer.
The warm and numinous anthem Phos Hilaron (‘O beauteous Light’, Op.55) for unaccompanied choir, dates from the composer’s ‘middle’ period, being composed in Oxford during December 2000. It was commissioned by the City of Oxford Choir, who premiered the work on 23rd March 2001 in the Chapel of Keble College, Oxford, directed by Peter Leech. The words are the English translation (by Robert Bridges) of a third century Greek evening hymn, in which God’s grace towards humankind is associated with the rising of the sun each day. It is a hymn of heartfelt gratitude.
Following on from the success of Phos Hilaron, the composer returned to Greek Orthodox texts for the third movement of his Requiem (Op.66), Remember, O Lord, for unaccompanied choir. The work was commissioned in 2005 for the choir of the Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels, Bridgetown, Barbados.
John Bryan, Director of Music at the Cathedral, graciously agreed to allow the premiere to take place on 17th May 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a series of performances by the Chamber Choir of South Africa and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Michael Dingaan.
As the recording of this CD took place in January 2020, the performers were unaware of the arrival of Covid-19 at the time, but events since then have added greater immediacy to this fervent and dignified prayer for the departed.
It had always been the composer’s intention to compose a setting of the Evening Canticles for the Choir of Christ the King, Frankfurt, especially after the huge success of the Versicles and Responses he had written for the same choir in 1994. He had allocated an Opus number (23) to the new Evening Canticles – Frankfurt, but unfortunately had moved away from Germany before starting on the work, and this, together with a change of personnel on the music staff at the church, meant that the idea fell into abeyance.
The composer returned to the idea in earnest in 2013, by which time he had moved to Johannesburg, and Kathleen Bird (who had been Director of Music at the church in Frankfurt and had originally commissioned the work) was now living in Berlin and had formed The English Choir there.
Thus, it was that The English Choir, Berlin, gave the first performance of the new unaccompanied Evening Canticles at Schloss Wittenberg, Germany, on 14th September 2014, since when the work has appeared on the music list of a number of Oxford and Cambridge College chapel choirs.
Nocturnus VI (Op.90, No.6), here arranged by the composer for Flugelhorn and String Orchestra, is the final work in the series of six instrumental and ensemble compositions written by the composer whilst living in South Africa (see also Nocturnus I, above). It was originally composed for organ solo and was completed on 4th December 2016. It is sub-titled “…4th December 1976” as it is dedicated to the composer’s mentor, Benjamin Britten, who died on that day.
It is a sombre and reflective work, combining rhythmic discrepancies in an uneasy rocking motion for much of the time. There are some oblique references to themes by Britten, in a manner similar to that used by the composer (more extensively) in an earlier work for organ (the Passacaglia on a Theme of Benjamin Britten, written in 2013).
The first performance of Nocturnus VI was given by Gerrit Jordaan on the organ of St. George’s Anglican Church, Johannesburg, on 2nd April 2017.
Litany to the Holy Spirit (Op.19) is the earliest work on this disc and is the second to use words by one of the great English metaphysical poets, George Herbert (1593-1633). It was originally scored for Tenor solo and organ but is here arranged for Tenor solo and string orchestra.
The work was composed in May 1994, in response to a request from the tenor, Ronald Bird, for a new work to be performed at the baptism of his son, William. It is a short meditation on very profound and personal words. The repetition of thematic material in the accompaniment adds to the idea of the litany and gives the work its sense of flow.
It was premiered by Ronald Bird in the Episcopal Church of Christ the King, Frankfurt, at Pentecost, 22nd May 1994, at which service William Bird was baptized.
Another special and very personal dedication surrounds the unaccompanied anthem Crown with love, Lord, this glad day (Op.90, No.2), as it was composed for the marriage of the composer’s daughter, Sarah, to Noel Radcliffe-Marrs, in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on 10th May 2014.
Ian Fraser’s words speak of the way in which the couple’s marriage vows reflect the enduring nature of God’s love.
In mid-2013, the composer was approached by a friend of his, Josef Langermann, who wished to commission a new anthem in honour of his wife’s birthday. They settled upon the words of Psalm 91 as the text, in which the characteristics of faithfulness in God, and His response to humankind, are expressed.
The resulting work, Psalm 91 – ‘Qui Habitat’ (Op.90, No.1) is a large-scale anthem, written in October and November 2013, and is scored for SATB choir and organ. It was premiered in St. George’s Anglican Church, Johannesburg, on 4th May 2014 in the presence of the work’s dedicatee, conducted by the composer, with Marnus Greyling at the organ. In 2019, the composer arranged the accompaniment for string orchestra, which is the version appearing on this recording.
Orchid Classics presents its second volume of choral music by Richard Pantcheff in world-premiere recordings performed by the London Choral Sinfonia directed by Michael Waldron, with tenor Nick Pritchard, and Peter Mankarious on trumpet and flugelhorn. The composer has orchestrated a number of the pieces specifically for this recording.
With an emphasis on Pantcheff’s larger-scale output, this second volume brings together a rich selection of works by this composer right across the spectrum of his oeuvre. It includes works for unaccompanied choir, choral/vocal pieces with string orchestra (including solo brass), and two works for orchestra and solo brass alone.
Many of the choral works featured date from the periods in Pantcheff’s life when he held musical appointments at Christ the King, Frankfurt, (1993-1995), including the unaccompanied Evening Canticles and uplifting Laudem Dicite; and St. George’s, Johannesburg (2010-2019), including his Missa Brevis, the anthem Domine Exaudi and the meditative Prayer of St. Columba.
Richard Pantcheff is internationally renowned as one of the finest contemporary British composers of Choral, Organ, Chamber and Instrumental music. He was trained in choral music and composition from an early age, starting at Ripon Cathedral, and thereafter reading music at Christ Church, Oxford, under Simon Preston and Francis Grier. He was mentored in composition by Benjamin Britten in the last years of Britten’s life. Since then, he has been commissioned to write new works for the leading performers in their field.
From 2012-2019 he was Director of Music at St. George’s Anglican Church, Johannesburg, South Africa, where he remains as Composer in Residence. He is a Patron of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, and Founder-Director of the Akorina Consort, a new choir comprising young professional singers in London.
All of his music has been published, and features regularly in major international music festivals, as well as in concerts, recitals, and church services worldwide. There are currently eleven commercially released CDs in the catalogue featuring his music.
His compositions are performed and broadcast all over the world, and have received wide acclaim from performers, critics and audiences for their originality, technical brilliance and emotional power.
More information can be found on his website: www.richardpantcheff.com
London Choral Sinfonia
The London Choral Sinfonia was formed for a concert in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2008. Since then, the LCS has secured a reputation as one of the highest-regarded and critically acclaimed chamber choir and orchestral ensembles, performing a broad repertoire throughout the season. A busy performance schedule throughout the year sees the group appearing at venues including Cadogan Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, Kings Place and St John’s Smith Square.
Aside from championing many of the major cornerstones of the repertoire, the LCS seeks to champion new music, having premiered new works and recordings with numerous composers including Tarik O’Regan, Owain Park, Richard Pantcheff and Ian Assersohn. Recent premieres include former Composer-in-Residence Oliver Rudland’s Christmas Truce, with a libretto by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The group’s realisation of Francis Grier’s epic Sword in the Soul was premiered in 2010 and featured poet Sir Geoffrey Hill and librettist Alice Goodman.
Performance highlights include Bach Jauchzet Gott with Katherine Watson (soprano) and Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet), Bach Motets and Cello Suites with Guy Johnston (cello), Mozart Requiem with Duncan Rock (bass), Mozart Exsultate Jubilate with Mary Bevan (soprano), Britten St Nicolas with Nick Pritchard (tenor), and Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem with Matthew Brook (baritone).
Michael Waldron began his musical training as a chorister at St Ambrose College, Hale Barns. After a gap year Organ Scholarship at Worcester Cathedral, he held the Organ Scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, for four years. Here he studied under Stephen Layton, during which time he was involved with the Choir’s numerous international tours, concerts, broadcasts and recordings.
Since graduating, Michael has quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic and versatile conductors of his generation, enjoying a busy concert career. He has worked with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Polyphony, London Mozart Players and Tonbridge Philharmonic, including appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall and BBC Proms.
Michael enjoys an extensive operatic career, including shows and projects for the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Buxton International Festival, Opera Della Luna and West Green Opera.
He is currently Artistic Director of the London Choral Sinfonia, London Lyric Opera, Islington Choral Society, Epworth Choir, and has also held posts with Guildford Choral Society and University of West London Chamber Choir.
Born in West Sussex, Nick Pritchard read music as a choral scholar at New College, Oxford and studied with Russell Smythe at the Royal College of Music. From 2017-2019 he was a member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s ‘Rising Stars’ scheme, and in 2017, he won the Whatsonstage Opera Poll award for Breakthrough Artist in UK Opera.
Opera highlights include Ferrando Così fan tutte for Opéra National du Rhin and Opera Holland Park, Acasis The Indian Queen for the Opèra de Lille under Emmanuelle Haïm, Tamino Die Zauberflöte for Irish National Opera, Lysander A Midsummer Night’s Dream for The Aldeburgh Festival, Amphinomus The Return of Ulysses under Christian Curnyn for The Royal Opera House, and Telemaco The Return of Ulysses and Mercurio La Calisto for English Touring Opera.
Concert highlights include Bach’s St. John Passion (Evangelist) for Stephen Layton, the OAE and Polyphony, and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra under David Hill, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (Evangelist) for the OAE and John Butt, Bach’s Mass in B Minor for Sir John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir and EBS, and for Harry Bicket and The English Concert, Handel’s Messiah with The RPO at The Royal Albert Hall, Bach’s Easter Oratorio and Magnificat for Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyrique and Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno with Concerto Köln.
Trumpet / Flugelhorn
Peter Mankarious studied with scholarship at the Royal College of Music as a postgraduate with Alistair Mackie, Mark Calder, Neil Brough and Michael Laird. As an undergraduate he read for an academic Music degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he was taught by Simon Munday. Originally from Oldham, Peter was brought up around the legendary brass tradition there and started playing the cornet in group music lessons. His main musical interests lie within the Baroque and symphonic orchestral genres, both of which feature heavily in his schedule.
Peter performs on both modern and historical trumpets and has performed with groups such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, National Symphony Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, Dunedin Consort, Hanover Band, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and many others at home and abroad. He has also appeared as Principal trumpet with groups such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Gabrieli Consort, The King’s Consort, La Nuova Musica, Armonico Consort and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Whilst a student, Peter was selected to be the trumpet participant on the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Ann and Peter Law young players scheme for outstanding young period instrumental players.
As a soloist Peter has given numerous recitals and has appeared performing Haydn’s famous Trumpet Concerto, Bach’s Cantata 51, the J.F Fasch Trumpet Concerto in D, the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Trumpets, and many of the numerous Torelli concertos. He has also appeared with La Serenissima giving a concert of 18th century trumpet sinfonias by Albinoni, Porta and Pollarolo.
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