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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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If you are unaware of the name 'Sir Granville Bantock' - a name in itself redolent of times gone by - then blame the arbiters of classical music who attempted to cast him into the dustbin of history, and thank the magnificent combination of Hyperion and Vernon Handley for bringing him back to a new generation of listeners.
This is music on the heroic, epic scale, as demonstrated by the huge resources that are required to play it. The themes are derived mainly from Celtic mythology, and are full of rich imagery and colour. When you hear the six harps playing together in the Celtic Symphony it is a complete revelation.
The main pieces on the CD are the 'Celtic Symphony' and 'A Hebridean Symphony'. There is an enormous amount of music here - over 73 minutes - all of which deserves to be heard. The quality of the playing is exactly as you would expect, given the conductor and orchestra (RPO).
If you are not moved and excited by this spendidly rich feast, then check your pulse!
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on 1 January 2008
I caught a snatch of the Hebridean Symphony on Radio 3 composer of the week, and ordered this CD as I was captivated by the music I heard. What some sublime music, why is he so neglected? I find his harmonies an amalgam of Elgar and Richard Strauss and yet also so individual. He was played quite a lot early in the 20th centuary but then quite disappeared from the repetoire. Thanks to Hyperion and Chandos for giving us a chance to hear his music.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 October 2011
How come Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Finzi et all have long been revered as great English composers and yet Granville Bantock lies in obscurity? Shamefully, this means that a lot of people who would enjoy Bantock's sound world are missing out on some of the most lovely and unaffected music to come out of these shores.

This disc was my way into Bantock. It remains one of my favorite purchases. The works contained herein can be characterized by their haunting, melancholic, misty eyed nature. The melodies are powerful and evocative, the orchestrations rich but never over done and the music has a propulsive quality that allows for moments of heightened excitement along with interludes of lushness and languor. Lovers of Strauss should form an orderly queue here! The orchestra and conductor play this music as if born to it and the recording itself captures the full colour and dynamism of the performance. Listen to the harps on a 'Celtic Symphony' and be prepared to swoon!

A must buy!
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on 10 July 2000
The works on this disc are probably the better known of Bantock's works, along with "Fifine at the Fair" on Hyperion CD (CDA66630). The "Hebridean Symphony" is based on Hebridean folk-song and is not as original as the later "Celtic Symphony" for string orchestra and six harps. "The Witch of Atlas" is a long multisectional tone-poem based on Shelley's epic of the same name. My personal favourite is "The Sea Reivers", a short a rumbustious tone-poem sub-titled "Hebridean Sea Poem No.2" you can almost feel the Atlantic's huge breakers beating on the rocky crags. And despite all the Hebridean and Celtic in these works Bantock was from London. A fine disc and exciting performances.
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on 2 April 2009
This CD of Bantock's work has grown on me in a pretty extraordinary way. Borrowing it, I was hardly grabbed AT ALL by it at first... Felt pretty much ready to forget the whole thing but was pulled back gently, irresistibly - notably, to the third movement of the Celtic Symphony, Andante con tenerezza. Fell profoundly in love with this. Have since been getting more and more into the whole collection the more I listen to it - especially, to date, A Hebridean Symphony. Wonderful stuff.(And yes, I did buy the CD!)

I very much agree with the reviewer of this recording who refers to music such as the soundtracks of Titanic & The Lord of the Rings - dramatic, evocative, Celtic-flavoured, with notes of robust heroism here, of fragile light amid darkness there. Horner's Braveheart would be another comparable one, along with symphonies, soundtracks and other orchestral work of Vaughan Williams (of whom I'm an especially ardent fan). The comparison with Shore's work is the more interesting as I'd long thought of the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings as significantly influenced by/comparable to Sibelius, and I've since learnt that Bantock and Sibelius were mutually appreciative in a big way. I'd certainly recommend Sibelius's tone poems & symphonies to anyone who knows & enjoys this Bantock material who's not familiar with Sibelius (not to mention Vaughan Williams).

Anyway, I emphasise that what I was so close to not troubling any further with here I've ended up appreciating so much. And it felt worth writing a review to say so as Bantock seems to be well under-appreciated, if not teetering on a brink of being forgotten. On this note, it's a massive loss to the world of music that Vernon Handley - such a great champion of music, such as Bantock's, that might otherwise go much less heard at large - died last year.
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on 14 April 2010
An outstanding CD. The Hebridean Symphony and the later Celtic Symphony are both stunningly original. The former has brassy climaxes reminiscent of Janacek and the latter, for large string orchestra, includes six rippling harps. The Celtic Symphony is outstanding and so hauntingly evocative of sea, mist and legend.

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
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Twas the Celtic Symphony that first drew me to the music Granville Bantock, inspiring me to invest in the Handley/Hyperion box-set when it was released. This CD is my second favourite now, the most stunningly original piece being the song-cycle Sappho Bantock: Sappho and Sapphic Poem; the other CDs are chock-a-block with tone poems, the literary inspiration for which is now very obscure and the music a little bit like a too polite mash-up of Strauss, Tchaikovsky and other great european colourists.

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.
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on 6 July 2013
This is a fine addition to the recorded works of Bantock. However I have now bought two copies of the CD, both of which have exhibited the same fault, a level-modulated digital distortion noise on the final 3 tracks. The first I thought was damaged and was returned but a second copy from a different supplier has the same fault. Another reviewer has mentioned that the average recording level on the disc is quite low. While this is true, I assume the reason is to accomodate the peak amplitude without resorting to dynamic range compression.
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on 2 October 2011
Other reviewers point out just how underrated Bantock is: they're right. His name, redolent of a certain era and his photographic portraits are very misleading. A man with the most severe facial expression and fierce looking beard and piercing eyes turns out to be the most generous hearted and respected musician; admired by Sibelius and Strauss and acting as a champion to lesser known composers, including Havergal Brian.

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.
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Bantock was a London-born English composer and conductor whose life bridged the 19th and 20th centuries. The dates of his birth and death (1868-1946) and just over a decade later than those of the much better known Edward Elgar. His music is tuneful and highly melodic and very often dramatic. All of Bantock's music is easy to enjoy on a first hearing and its depth emerges with repeated hearing. The main works on this CD are the two `Celtic' symphonies - first, the Celtic Symphony itself and the fourth and final item, the even more substantial Hebridean Symphony. In between we have two tone poems - The Witch of Atlas and The Sea Reivers. The Witch of Atlas is derived from Shelley's poem of the same name, though this is a purely orchestral piece. The Celtic Symphony is scored for strings alone including six harps. This gives the piece a very bardic feel with its unique sound. The Sea Reivers is based on a traditional Hebridean melody and, like the Hebridean Symphony, and contains reworkings of traditional Hebridean folk-songs. The orchestra is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley.
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