Just as with the first release in Hyperion's series of the orchestral music of Granville Bantock, I am almost bowled over by the music and performances on display. Bantock was obviously a really good composer whose relative neglect is more or less inexplicable (apart from the fact that the music was very much out of fashion in the 30s and 40s). This is lush, luxuriant late-romanticism - there are certainly touches of Richard Strauss, although Elgar and French models are more obvious. And the fads of seventy and eighty years ago are certainly blurry from the point of view of today, so we have the opportunity to enjoy this music unfettered by such parameters. As the previous disc, this one shows Bantock to have been an eminent orchestrator, but one which could use his orchestration skills not for mere pyrotechnics but to emphasize strong themes which are superbly developed and argued, and an utterly assured compositional technique able to support large-scale structures without even coming close to losing the listener's interest.
The Pagan Symphony, first performed in 1936, is an urgent but tonally rich one-movement work (of more than thirty minutes). It is cleverly developed without being clever for cleverness's sake with several stunningly beautiful touches and a marvelous scherzo as, perhaps, the high-point. Fifine at the Fair is an utterly genial work, but with a tragic streak to it and (not the least) a gorgeously beautiful opening. It sports a richness of imaginative thematic material to marvel at. The two heroic ballads are colorful and enjoyable fillers with memorable themes, even if they are, perhaps, somewhat unsubtle.
Bantock is probably not the most individual of composers, but his music is inventive, imaginative, never boring and with some utterly magical touches. Not really profound, perhaps, but who really cares with music as engaging as this? The performances are magnificent as well and the sound quality simply marvelous. Urgently recommended - although one might want to start with the issue containing the Celtic and Hebridean symphonies.