Stations of the Cross, Book II

Giles SwayneGZ045
Organ | Duration: 26 minutes

This sequence of 14 pieces (in two books) was premiered by David Titterington at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, on 18th November 2006, and has since been performed by other acclaimed organists, including Kevin Bowyer & Simon Nieminski.

  • The women of Jerusalem
  • The third fall
  • Jesus is stripped of his clothes
  • Jesus is nailed to the Cross
  • Jesus dies on the Cross
  • Jesus’ body is laid in his mother’s arms
  • Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb

Marc Rochester’s review in The Gramophone of Simon Nieminski’s recording

For many organists the name of Giles Swayne became associated with their instrument with his Riff-Raff of 1983, which set out to bridge what the composer described as the ‘gulf between classical music and its popular roots’. The massive Stations of the Cross, composed a little over 20 years later, is a very different cup of tea, making no concessions in either its scope or its musical language to anything in a recognisably ‘popular’ vein. The scope of the work is dark, dramatic and emotionally intense and the musical language uncompromisingly dissonant.

From the dark, deep rumblings of the opening station (‘Jesus is sentenced to death’), through the almost inaudible agony of ‘The third fall’ and the vicious, swiping clusters of ‘Jesus is stripped of his clothes’, to the palpitations and desolation of the final station (‘Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb’), Swayne’s visionary writing is imbued with a level of powerful dramatic imagery that requires a highly resourceful organ and a particularly inspiring player to bring it off to its full effect.

It gets both here. The 2007 Matthew Copley organ of St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh speaks in a disarmingly direct way with a sharp clarity that can seem uncomfortably harsh but certainly captures the work’s ‘immediacy and humanity’, which Nigel Simeone refers to in his extensive booklet essay. For his part, Simon Niemiński champions this vast score with a compelling intensity that captures the visionary scope of Swayne’s writing magnificently. This is neither a work nor a performance for the faint-hearted; but for those willing to give themselves up to this strangely powerful music, there is much to savour.

CD available from Resonus Classics: RES 10118


The piece itself is highly organised. Each movement is based around a key-note and these rise by a semitone between movements, giving the work some sort of harmonic progress but also mirroring Christ’s own journey. Within the movements Swayne has used a pair of eight-note modes, the first in the introduction and the second in the main body of the piece. The result could be rather dry, but certainly isn’t. You do not need to know about his construction methods, but they give the work as sense of harmonic stability whilst allowing dynamic flow and change.

Swayne’s music is tonal only in the loosest possible sense of the word, but his construction techniques ensure that the harmonic movement is always away from a base, you feel that the music is coming from somewhere and going to somewhere; this is important. Stations of the Cross is a long work, some 60 minutes, far too long to be anchored in some sort of a-tonal stasis.

Within each movement there is a strong sense of drama, though the result is not quite as theatrical as I expected. To describe the music as contemplative is wrong, but it is certainly thoughtful and rather austere, despite the wide tonal range and virtuoso feel. Swayne was clearly influenced both by the meditative nature of the Roman Catholic Station of the Cross, but also the highly dramatic and passionate sense of the crucifixion story itself.

The work is further organised into two books, two groups of seven pieces. The second group concludes with Jesus Body is Laid in the Tomb, a full scale prelude and fugue which takes Bach and extends his structures into the 21st century, a three-part trio sonata prelude leads to a five-part fugue which concludes this amazing piece.

Robert Hugill

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Vegetable Fiesta

John BloodGZ054
Piano | Grade 1 technical level | Duration: 9½ minutes

Ten pieces depicting a basket of fresh and varied vegetables, including a downcast cabbage, an elegant French bean out for a Sunday stroll, two chirpy Spanish onions, and an exploding turnip. This rewarding and picturesque collection forms an excellent introduction to the same composer’s Stamp–album GZ 002.

Along with the composer’s Stamp-Album, Vegetable Fiesta was chosen as a set work and performed at the 2012 Contemporary Keyboard Weekend at the Conservatoire Frédéric Chopin, Paris.


  • THE MIGHTY CARROT: Stomp dance
  • VERY SAD PETITS POIS: Doleful dance
  • THE RUNNER BEAN: Early morning jog
  • HAPPY SPANISH ONIONS: Holiday fiesta
  • THE LONELY CABBAGE: Green lament
  • THE FRENCH BEAN: Sunday promenade
  • PERKY PARSNIPS: A jaunty jape
  • THE EXPLODING TURNIP: A sorry scene

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Ten Terrible Tunes

Giles SwayneGZ058
Piano | Grade 2-4 technical level

Ten contrasting pieces which encourage the young pianist to express moods and characters of many kinds. Although technically easier they are similar in approach to the same composer’s Scrap–book GZ 001. The sixth piece, Whistling Tune, is included in Spectrum 4, an international collection of miniatures for piano, compiled by Thalia Myers and published by the Associated Board under licence from Gonzaga Music.

Ten Terrible Tunes was a set work performed at the 2012 Contemporary Keyboard Weekend at the Conservatoire Frédéric Chopin, Paris

  • Catchy Tune
  • Silly Tune
  • Scary Tune
  • Ring Tune
  • Posh Tune
  • Whistling Tune
  • Pop Tune
  • Hymn Tune
  • Sleepy Tune
  • Cheeky Tune

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Twenty-five variations

Giles EasterbrookGZ068
Piano | Duration: 7-8 minutes

These intensely concentrated variations were premiered by Raphael Terroni in May 1983. Described as a “characteristically eccentric gem” by the Hampstead & Highgate Gazette, they have been widely performed, and are featured on the 2010 CD of Giles Easterbrook’s music, The Moon Underwater (Prima Facie PFCD 002)

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Macbeth: Descriptive drama for harpsichord

John BloodGZ075
Harpsichord | Grades 6–8 technical level | Duration: 23 minutes

An instrumental drama which portrays the events, settings and characters of the Shakespeare play. In ten contrasted pieces which skilfully exploit the harpsichord’s varied registers, we hear Macbeth’s encounter with the witches, his dark broodings, and Lady Macbeth’s wily powers of persuasion – an increasingly manic Valse diabolique. The growing mayhem eventually leads to the appearance of Banquo’s ghost, and Macbeth’s defeat at the hands of Macduff. Vivid, spooky and exciting.

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