Bantock: Hebridean & Celtic Symphonies
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A Hebridean Symphonie - Symphonie celtique pour orch. à cordes & 6 harpes - The Witch of Atlas - The Sea Reivers / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, dir. Vernon Handley
'Magnificently recorded and performed. When audiences are crying out for 'melodious music' how can such music as this have been ignored for so long?' --Gramophone
'The best Bantock record I have ever heard' --CDReview
FANFARE CLASSICAL HALL OF FAME '...the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs magnificently from beginning to end, coupling elegance, eloquence, passion, and poser with Hyperion's fastidious sound in a way that compels admiration from the listener for conductor, ensemble and composer alike. Handley's is the definitive version of the Hebridean Symphony, outstripping that available on Naxos in every regard, and with the other works on this disc to further commend it, this release sails effortlessly into port as the newest inductee into Fanfare's Classical Hall of Fame. --Fanfare, USA
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This warmth and generosity spills into his music. This recording is a fine example. The two symphonies showcase his opulent and accomplished orchestration skills and gift for romantic extended melody. So why is such an accomplished composer neglected? Unfortunately, there do seem to be some legitimite reasons. Did I read it correctly? Is it true that the Celtic Symphony - and what a lovely sound it is - was scored for 260 string players and 6 harps? I think 30 strings and 1 harp would have managed perfectly well: hence the neglect - a 20 minute piece costs a fortune to put on in a concert hall - all those musicians need to be paid. Otherwise this is a worthy brother to Vaughan William's Tallis Fantasia. Don't feel guilty enjoying this; it is beautiful music and the musicians have already been paid! This, more than the Hebridean Symphony, has asome tautness to the structure but it remains a wonderfully, misty and atmospheric work.
The other problem, particularly with the "Hebridean" Symphony - and it isn't a big problem; is that he is quite formly relaxed: there's nothing strict or Brahmsian about his symphonies - these are more luxurious tone poems: always beautiful but often meandering between different scenes. They represent a lovely wallow in a place. In the Hebrides it almost sounds like the rain drops are made of honey.
The "Hebridean" Symphony is for "full" orchestra - in other words, probably a smaller ensemble than the "Celtic" but it is similarly rich. There are more twists and turns but even the extended stormy weather element hardly dampens the spirit, nor the battles in the third section. The symphony does reprise themes throughout and ends as calmly as it began but a true "symphony" it is not.
Both symphonies are gorgeous as are the two stocking fillers on the disc. "The Sea Rievers" extends the Celtic theme of the disc. Seventy three minutes of music fits in nicely with this generously proportioned music.
So it isn't perhaps music of Beethovenian greatness but it is wonderful escapist music that we all deserve to enjoy once in a while. The opulence is aided by a very spacious sound stage provided by Hyperion and you know you can trust Vernon Handley to showcase this music at its best. Any enthusiast for English music who doesn't have any Bantock in their collection should snap this fine release up without haste.
Yet the Celtic Symphony, with its astonishingly spiritualized strings and six harps, emerging as if out of a dense fog, continues to call. The Hebridian Symphony, substantially longer, is not quite so immediately transporting, but some consider it the greater composition. It would be nice now if another ensemble/label could provide a rival recording, because I begin to feel the music, at times, could be projected with a wee bit more passion, the sea could boil more dramatically. (Perhaps it's the church acoustic.)
I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for this Bantock revival they were so sure would follow the Hyperion project. I'm keeping a weather eye on the horizon for a performance of the Celtic Symphony.
The bold and brash The Sea Rievers and the Witch of Atlas are worthy additions to the collection.
No wonder Bantock drew the admiration of Sibelius. I've not enjoyed a CD so much for ages. Bantock deserves a wider audience - let this be your introduction
catches on the player circumference with the result that the first very quiet tracks are ruined.
I should really have my money back!
Its been tried on 2 cd players one being a B&O with both having sad results.
Am very unhappy,