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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Granville Bantock - Orchestral Works Vol. 5 (Vernon Handley)


Composer: Granville Bantock
  • (01) The Song of Songs: Prelude
  • (02-03) Omar Khayyám: Prelude & Camel Caravan
  • (04) Caristiona, A Hebridean Seascape
  • (05) Processional (orchestral scene from "The Curse of Kehama")
  • (06-17) Thalaba the Destroyer

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Vernon Handley, conductor

Date: 2001
Label: Hyperion



Another exemplary addition to Handley’s absorbing Bantock series for Hyperion

Completed in July 1899 and first heard under Henry Wood the following May‚ Thalaba the Destroyer was the first of six tone­poems penned by Bantock at the turn of the century and the only one that escaped revision. Based on a lengthy narrative poem by Robert Southey (who was Nelson’s first biographer and appointed Poet Laureate in 1813)‚ it is a hugely enjoyable‚ enticingly colourful effort‚ brimful of distinctly Tchaikovskian ardour (Bantock was very much in thrall of the Russian master at the time) and always displaying a most satisfying thematic and orchestral resource.

Another epic poem by Southey (namely The Curse of Kehama‚ published in 1810) provided the stimulus for Bantock’s first really big composition‚ an unfinished symphony in 24 scenes possibly begun in 1893. The present ‘Processional’ was one of just two movements that Bantock subsequently revised as his Two Orchestral Scenes of 1912‚ but its exoticisms now sound just a touch forced and melodically weary. Much more rewarding‚ to my ears‚ is the sensuous‚ at times positively Straussian ‘Prelude’ from Bantock’s vast setting of The Song of Songs (1912­26). Unplayed for nearly 65 years‚ it shares‚ as annotator Lewis Foreman rightly observes‚ many a formal and stylistic trait with the equivalent movement from Bantock’s intoxicating orchestral song­cycle‚ Sappho (Hyperion‚ 10/97).

The ‘Prelude’ and ‘Camel Caravan’ from Omar Khayyám also make an effective diptych‚ the latter featuring tangy contributions from a mixed chorus and authentic camel bells from Tunisia (procured by Norman Del Mar for his 1979 BBC recording and loaned here by his son‚ Jonathan). Last‚ but not least‚ there’s Caristiona‚ a hauntingly evocative ‘Hebridean Sea Poem’ for small orchestra dating from 1920 based on a tune from Marjory Kennedy­Fraser’s second volume of Hebridean songs.

Suffice to say‚ the RPO under Vernon Handley devour all this rare material with palpable relish‚ and Tony Faulkner’s expertly balanced Walthamstow sound is vivid and truthful. Hearty thanks to all involved in this enterprising labour of love.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


Granville Bantock (7 August 1868 – 16 October 1946) was a British composer of classical music. His music was influenced by folk song of the Hebrides (as in his 1915 Hebridean Symphony) and the works of Richard Wagner. Many of his works have an "exotic" element, including the choral epic Omar Khayyám (1906–09). Among his other better-known works are the overture The Pierrot of the Minute (1908) and the Pagan Symphony (1928). Many of his works have been commercially recorded since the early 1990s.


Vernon Handley (11 November 1930 – 10 September 2008) was a British conductor, known in particular for his support of British composers. Handley is much revered for his enthusiastic and untiring championship of British music, including many lesser known, unfashionable or relatively neglected composers whose artistic reputations and popularity he often helped to revive. He is said to have recorded as many as a hundred premières of British works, including highly successful series on labels such as Hyperion, Chandos, EMI and Conifer.


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