Bantock's Classical Orchestral Poems
K. Farrington | Missegre, France | 02/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Granville Bantock was a bearded, cigar toting, larger than life artist who might drop you a line in Latin and who studied Ancient Greek and Persian as an agreeable pastime. He seems pretty remote from our contemporary ideas of the creative aesthete. With his smoking jacket on, no doubt wearing a cap complete with tassle, he composed massive pieces like these three offerings on this magnificent CD in his Morris wallpapered Victorian study. The Cyprian Goddess or Symphony No 3 was inspired by at least two sources relating to the same subject: some Latin verse Odes of Horace referring to Aphrodite and the sculpture of the Venus de Milo in the Louvre; thus he was thinking of both Greek and Latin versions of the goddess of love, born on the beautiful island of Cyprus. One wonders if Horace's request for Aphrodite to 'quit the favoured Cyprus and come' somehow echoed with Bantock's own love of the exotic and the consequent conflict this must have had with his daily life in his more prosaic homeland. The Helena Variations are a fascinating set of variations, as inventive as Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations in their way, in which his skill as an orchestral craftsman are displayed to the full. Dante and Beatrice is a tone poem covering much of the same ideas as Liszt's Dante Symphony. Using a rich Richard Strauss size orchestra (but never his technique!), Bantock paints a huge canvas, to my mind bringing the Lisztian tone poem to its fullest and most eloquent flowering. In order to do this, Bantock is secure in all departments, form, balance and restraint, the classical characteristics which mark him as different to the more self-absorbed romantic, Richard Strauss or the doom laden Mahler. Bantock would never have composed music about his home or sex life nor would he have written a Symphony of a Thousand! He was too practical a musician for that, managing local amateur and semi-professional ensembles in the depths of the north of England. No gesamskunstwerk for him. The orchestral effects throughout are delightful, the melodic invention everflowing and Handley, here on his best form, doesn't overplay the dynamics of tempo or crescendi or diminuendi. He unwraps a rich tapestry that shows how an English composer could produce work that was as good, if not better than the more feted continentals. Wonderful stuff!"
Lush Romantism At Its Best!
K. Farrington | 09/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The music is a cross between Romantism and strangly enough, Film music. It has a full orchestral score with sweeps of dramatic lyricism and pathos. It definitely has the feel of Strauss texturing but has the effect of listening to something written for a film, either Williams or Horner. I am surprised this music has not gained wider acceptance. Also, the playing by the Royal Philharmonic is on par with any orchestra. The recording is crisp and detailed. I have the first three of the Handley/RPO Bantock pairings and consider them a worthy investment. Horn players will definitely want to get their hands on these!"
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 01/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Third Symphony of Granville Bantock is titled The Cyprian Goddess (subtitled Aphrodite in Cyprus) and was written during a voyage in the Pacific in the late 1930s. As the title indicates, Bantock celebrates Aphrodite/Venus in this work and quotes from ancient poets figure in the score, including Horace, Bion and Theocritus. The music is evocative of the sea and casts a look back to the world when Aphrodite was more than just a mythical figure. Like the Pagan Symphony, Bantock presents a picture of the ancient world and its mysteries. The symphony describes a heroic and dreamy world ending quietly, with a sunset. Being someone who is deeply interested in the ancient world, I find Bantock's vision appealing. The other works on this disc are a series of variations based on a theme derived from the initials of his wife, Helen and Dante and Beatrice, a tone poem. Dante and Beatrice is a psychological study of Dante life blending facts with literature. Dante meets Beatrice, is forced to leave Florence, has visions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven and meets his own death.Altogether, this is a disc that demonstrates Bantock's gift for creating beautiful melodies and orchestration. The booklet is filled with a wealth information about the composer and the works recorded."