WORKS: The Secret Garden; Salt in the Blood; First Light; The Darkness is no Darkness; The Snows Descend
PERFORMER: BBC Symphony Chorus/Stephen Jackson; Fine Arts Brass; Thomas Trotter (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570346
Judith Bingham has choral music in her blood so it’s appropriate that this first disc devoted exclusively to her music should reflect a central strand in her creative make-up. Even the exception, The Snows Descend, is a carefully-wrought paraphrase for brass of an earlier choral work. The title track is the ‘botanical fantasia’ she wrote for the 2004 Proms, a meditation on Eden, its loss and the possibility of paradise regained; the writing is audibly ‘English’ in its debts to mystical Holst, Walton and Britten. But although her idiom may be far from radical, Bingham’s harmonic language can prove potently unsettling (as in the SS Wesley reimagining The Darkness), and there’s a keen narrative instinct at work too which renders the musical ghost story Salt in the Blood as authentic a menaced seascape as anything since Peter Grimes. Perhaps the excellent Fine Arts Brass are a little forward here – Thomas Trotter’s attentive complicity in The Secret Garden never falls into that trap – but Stephan Jackson secures committed advocacy from the BBC Symphony Chorus throughout. Paul Riley