This atmospheric piece for solo piano, whose Afrikaans subtitle ‘Wind oor die Branders’ translates as Wind over the Waves, is by Richard Pantcheff  (b.1959). It comes from ‘Nocturnus’, a suite of six pieces written for different instruments; the final work in the suite is 4th December 1976, written in memory of Benjamin Britten on the fortieth anniversary of the composer’s death. Pantcheff was mentored in composition by Benjamin Britten in the last years of Britten’s life, and his music displays a distinct affinity with Britten’s soundworld, as well as that of earlier English composers including Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Gerald Finzi and Elizabeth Lutyens.

A prolific composer of choral, organ, chamber and instrumental works, Richard Pantcheff was trained in choral music and composition from an early age, initially as a chorister at Ripon Cathedral, and studied music at Christ Church, Oxford, under Simon Preston and Francis Grier. His music has been widely performed and praised for its originality and technical brilliance, combined with intellectual and emotional depth.

I discovered this piece through ‘De Profundis Clamavi’, a recent recording by British pianist, and friend of mine, Duncan Honeybourne. Duncan is a keen advocate of English music and a champion of lesser-known repertoire, and his recording on which ‘Nocturnus V’ appears (together with Pantcheff’s substantial Piano Sonata, of which he is dedicatee) contains no less than eight world premiere recordings.

The piece is minimalist in style. Its title ‘Nocturnus’ obviously suggests a Nocturne or night piece, and although this work makes stylistic reference to Chopin’s Nocturnes in its flowing accompaniment (almost continuous semiquavers to suggest both waves and wind), it is perhaps closer to Britten’s ‘Night Piece’ (which also appears on ‘De Profundis Clamavi’) and ‘Night’ from Holiday Diary in atmosphere, harmonic language and some of its textures. But while the middle section of Britten’s ‘Night Piece’ is unsettled, full of curious nocturnal twitterings and scurrying, Pantcheff exchanges the fluid semiquavers for a rising chordal figure in triplets which climaxes in fortississimo (fff) chords high up in the piano’s register. The effect is hymn-like and joyful. The music then subsides and pauses, before the semiquaver ‘waves’ return, now in the bass, with soft, piquant chords in the treble.

Although not particularly difficult (I would suggest this piece is around Grade 5-6 standard), the challenge for the player comes in retaining evenness in the semiquaver figures and sustaining long notes in the other register. Sparing use of the pedal will avoid muddying the sound in these sections, while the middle section requires greater projection and brightness of sound. It’s a satisfying piece to play as it offers the player plenty of scope for expression and “sound painting” to portray the music’s inspiration. 


‘Nocturnus V’ by Richard Pantcheff, played by Duncan Honeybourne

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Guest posts are invited for this series. If you would like to submit an article about repertoire you are working on or enjoy playing, please get in touch


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Repertoire in Focus is a new, occasional series on repertoire – and not just repertoire for the piano. The articles will take a single piece or suite of pieces and offer an overview of the music, some analysis, and commentary on practising/performance, together with reasons why this music is special or meaningful for the player and why they have selected it. For teachers, it may also be an opportunity to highlight some of the challenges and pleasures of teaching specific pieces.

Guest posts are invited, from both professional and amateur musicians. For a sample, please see this article by French Horn player Ben Goldscheider.

If you would like to contribute to this series, please get in touch via the Contact page.


This site is free to access and ad-free, and takes many hours to research, write, and maintain. If you find joy and value in what I do, please consider making a donation to support the continuance of this site

Make A Donation


Inspired by a guest post on performance anxiety written by a friend from my piano Meetup group, I am launching a new occasional series of guest posts called Advice to Myself.

The articles are aimed at pianists and musicians in general and will offer practical, supportive and inspiring advice on aspects such as managing anxiety, preparing for performance, practising, repertoire, teaching, music exams, avoiding injury and more. The advice of others based on their experience of similar issues and challenges can be very helpful, and I hope these articles will also create a forum for discussion of the many issues which face musicians, amateur and professional.

Articles can include images, links, video and sound clips.

If you would like to contribute to the series, please contact me

 

Wishing all my readers around the globe a very happy and musical 2017.

Forthcoming articles and features on The Cross-Eyed Pianist include:

  • Meet the Artist interviews with BBC Young Musician 2016 finalist, the vibrant saxophonist Jess Gillam, composer Bernard Hughes, and pianist Danny Driver
  • Following The Accidental Pianist, further articles on the myriad aspects of being a pianist, including The Patient Pianist, The Sensitive Pianist and The Doubting Pianist (feel free to suggest other topics for inclusion in this series)
  • ‘Approaching the Concerto’ – reflections from a variety of soloists, including Stephen Hough, Dinara Klinton and Alissa Firsova, and conductor Tom Hammond ahead of a series of concerts featuring piano concerti by Beethoven, Grieg and Brahms, conducted by Tom Hammond.
  • The continuing journey through Schubert’s Sonata in A, D959 (read more about this project here)
  • Music into Words mini conference – following the successful launch of the Music into Words project in February 2016, Frances Wilson (The Cross-Eyed Pianist) and Simon Brackenborough (founder and editor of the Corymbus blog) host a half-day mini conference exploring the great variety of writing about classical music today. Guest speakers, audience discussion and Q&A, and plenty of opportunities for networking and socialising. Further information and tickets here
  • An opportunity to hear acclaimed pianist, writer and teacher Graham Fitch perform the complete Goldberg Variations, plus a special post-concert talk and audience Q&A, hosted by The Cross-Eyed Pianist

And much more besides…..

Readers are welcome to suggest topics to be covered and guest posts are invited – feel free to contact me