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Richard Pantcheff: Organ Works

Simon Passmore (organ) (Prima Facie)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

Richard Pantcheff
Organ works: Passacaglia on a theme of Benjamin Britten etc
Simon Passmore (organ)
Prima Facie PFCD174/175   92:11 mins  (2 discs)

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Richard Pantcheff (b1959), known mostly for his choral and organ music, was mentored as a composer by Benjamin Britten. That’s difficult to hear in this mostly turgid music, but the opening work ought to have been of interest. Commissioned during Britten’s centenary in 2013, it is based on a short theme that the composer jotted down in 1958 for the great French organist Jean Langlais to improvise upon at the Festival Hall. Passacaglia on a Theme of Benjamin Britten has its moments, but is mostly so murky that even Britten’s theme is obscured. There is more clarity in Voces Organi, in effect voluntaries tailored to the church’s calendar, designed – like weekly flower arrangements – to create atmosphere on a rainy day.

Several pieces here were written in 2012-19 when Pantcheff, usually based in Oxford, was director of music at St George’s Anglican Church in Parktown, Johannesburg. A Sequence for St George conjures up some interesting sonorities, but mostly sounds like improvisation. The Chorale Prelude on ‘Werde munter, mein Gemüte’ and a Trio Sonata, also from that time, invoke Bach rather than Britten, no more successfully. The recording, made at St Ann’s in Manchester, is solid but the music gives little scope for interpretative flair.

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John Allison