Bingham: Jacob’s Ladder

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Jacob’s Ladder – Parable for Organ and Strings; St Bride, Assisted by Angels; Prelude and Voluntary; Annunciation I; Hope; Into the Wilderness; The Gift; Vol de nuit; Ancient Sunlight etc
PERFORMER: Tom Winpenny (organ); Dmitri Ensemble/Graham Ross
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572687

With impeccable timing Naxos turns to the organ music of Judith Bingham, just weeks after the Proms premiere of The Everlasting Crown, her most extended organ work to date. Naxos has previously released a disc of her choral works (reviewed April 2007); with almost half this CD given over to premiere recordings, Tom Winpenny opens an illuminating window on Bingham’s richly-coloured, programmatically-driven engagement with the ‘king of instruments’.
The French school has long been a potent influence – it’s less evident, perhaps, in the early Edgar-Allan-Poe-infused Gothick of 1973, but clearly discernible in the Messiaen-inflected Into the Wilderness (1982). The concerto Jacob’s Ladder, too, is on nodding terms with Poulenc’s Concerto for similar forces – albeit without Poulenc’s timpani. It’s full of striking musical images – no surprise, perhaps, after the vivid imaginings of the three Annunciation pieces and the sunrise to Ascension trajectory of the Prelude and Voluntary culled from the 2003 Missa Brevis.
Given Bingham’s exacting colouristic emphasis, it’s as well that Winpenny knows the St Albans instrument like the back of his hand, coaxing an array of voluptuous and apposite sounds. But he’s also alert to the fluidity of her narratives, and, when called upon to do so, serves up virtuoso flair with incorrigible panache. Paul Riley