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Judith Bingham: Heaven and Earth, etc

Tom Winpenny (organ) (Naxos)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Judith Bingham
Heaven and Earth; Vanished London Churches; Roman Conversions; Bright Spirit; Daphne’s Room; Kalmar Rising; Missa Brevis V – Eternal Procession; Mountain Music
Tom Winpenny (organ)
Naxos 8.574251   71:46 mins

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Descriptive details play such a large part in the compositional methods of English composer Judith Bingham (b1952) that she might almost be a modern successor to the French 18th-century harpsichordists or the Respighi of The Pines of Rome. In the course of Naxos’s second collection of the British composer’s organ pieces (all recorded for the first time) we visit six destroyed London churches, two Bernini sculptures, Millais’s painting of the drowned Ophelia, an Appalachian community in America, the maritime Swedish city of Kalmar and some unusually terrifying moths.

Bingham’s sound pictures certainly excel in atmosphere, whether conjured from dark growling pedal work, the stylistically questionable tremolo shake, or full blazing chords in the French organ style. Everything is delivered with reasonable aplomb by Tom Winpenny at the main instrument of Sweden’s Västerås Cathedral (for two items the smaller choir organ chips in too). Numerous pictures, however, prove disappointingly brief and inconsequential, leaving the listener waiting for a punch that never comes, certainly not in Vanished London Churches or the anaemic Mountain Music.

Bigger and better things happen in the metamorphosis narratives of Roman Conversions, with its splendidly fiery finale; in the sorrow and anguish of Bright Spirit, a solid memorial piece arranged from an original for wind ensemble; and the determinedly curious Daphne’s Room, written for the 70th birthday of fellow composer and miniaturist Howard Skempton. Happily, this uneven album bows out in triumph with Eternal Procession, proudly dispatched with that majestic clamour only possible with the ‘king of instruments’, the organ.

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Geoff Brown