Current Bantock CD Discography

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Rare historic recordings commercial and off-air all mono rec 1923-1948
Shulamite's Monologue from The Song of Songs Laelia Finneberg (sop)/BBCSO/composer 30 March 1936 20.18
Glory of the Sun London Promenade Orchestra/Walter Collins rec 1948
Macbeth Overture Metropole SO/Dolf van der Linden rec 1948
Circus Life Overture London Promenade Orchestra/Walter Collins rec 1947
Four Chinese Landscapes London Promenade Orchestra/Walter Collins rec 1946 3.45+2.30+1.32+4.00
Polka - Russian Scenes BBC Welsh Orch/Mansel Thomas. 27 May 1937
King Solomon:Processional London Promenade Orch/composer 15 Nov 1945, 3.15
Choral Hymn London Select Choir/BBCSO/composer rec 6 May 1937 3.43
Announcement of King Solomon broadcast 0.32
Songs of Egypt: Invocation to the Nile; Lament of Isis Leila Megane(sop) /orch/C W Byng rec 30 Oct 1923 1.57+2.29
Now: Frank Mullings/BBCSO/composer 14 Sept 1936 3.27
Pilgrim's Progress: Pilgrim Now Hath Found His Lord; In praise of Famous Men National Chorus, BBC Wireless SO/Stanford Robinson, rec Central hall Westminster, 5 Jan 1929. 4.09+3.46
King's Monologue (Act III Song of Songs) Oscar Natzke (bass-bar/ Hubert Greenslades (piano) rec 1937.3.59
Bantock talking about Sibelius 11 March 1941 1.38
DUTTON CDLX 7043 [76.53]
 Amazon UK    £8.50 - £9.00
see review

Hebridean Symphony
Celtic Symphony
The Witch of Atlas
The Sea Reivers

RPO Vernon Handley
(Hyperion CDA66450) Crotchet

Pagan Symphony
Fifine at the Fair
Two Heroic Ballads

RPO/Vernon Handley
(Hyperion CDA 66630) Crotchet

The Cyprian Goddess (Symphony No.3)
Dante and Beatrice
The Helena Variations

RPO/Vernon Handley
(Hyperion CDA88810) Crotchet

Sappho: Prelude and Nine fragments for Mezzo Soprano and Orchestra
Sapphic Poem

Susan Bickley/Julian Lloyd Webber
(Hyperion CDA66899) Crotchet

Hebridean Symphony
Russian Scenes
Old English Suite

Czechoslovak State Phiharmonic (Kosice)/Adrian Leaper
(Marco Polo 8.223274) Amazon UK

Pagan Symphony
BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Handford,
Hebridean Symphony
BBC Scoffish Symphony Orchestra/Adrian Boult
(Intaglio INCD 704-1) Crotchet
Atalanta in Calydon
Vanity of Vanities

BBC Singers/Simon Jolly
(Albany TROY 180)

The following CDs also include music by other composers:

Fifine at the Fair
RPO/Sir Thomas Beecham
(EMI Classics CDM 7 63405 2) deleted

The Pierrot of the Minute
Bournemouth Symphonietta/Norman Del Mar Crotchet
(Chandos Collect Series CHAN 6566)

Pagan Symphony
BBC Phllharmonic Orchestra/Sir Edward Downes
(BBC Radio Classics 15656 91592)

Violin Sonata No.3 in C
Susanne Stanzeleit, Violin and Gusztav Fenyo, piano
(United 88031 CD)

Pagan Poem
Kenneth Smith, flute and Paul Rhodes, piano (ASV CD DCA862) Amazon UK

Three Scottish Scenes: The Cameron Highlanders (Quickstep); The Gathering of Clan Chatton (Pibroch); Timour the Tartar (Reel)
Ronald Brautigam piano
(Koch 3-1590-2 H1) Amazon UK

Prometheus Unbound. The Frogs of Aristophanes
Black Dyke Mills Band/ J.Watson (Polygram QPRL 06 if))

Prometheus Unbound
Black Dyke Mills Band/G.Brand
(Chandos CHAN 4510) Amazon UK

Sea Sorrow
The Glasgow Orpheus Choir, '20Classic Recordings'
(Moidart Music Group MOICD007)

Scots Wha Ha'e, Dumbarton Oaks and O, Can Ye Sew Cushions
The Glasgow Orpheus Choir, 'O Light of  Life'
(Moidart Music Group MOICD012)
The same recording of Scots Wha Ha'e is also available on another  CD, The Star O' Rabbie Burns, by the same company.

The Song of the Seals
John MacCormack, 'Scottish and Irish Songs'
Moidart Music Group MOICD005

The Discography of Granville Bantock:
A Beginners Guide
Vincent Budd

Compact Discs

If your taste is for the orchestral and the pastoral there is probably no better starting point than GB's late but exquisitely blissful Celtic Symphony, beautifully performed by Handley and the RPO on the first of Hyperion's Bantock series. This is a jewel of 20th century British music and desperately needs to be heard more often in our concert halls. It is coupled with three other magnificent works in the Bantock canon, the Hebridean Symphony and The Witch of Atlas (Tone Poem No. 5), and the shorter The Sea Reivers. This CD serves as the perfect introduction to GB's musical soundscape. Essential.

There are now three CD recordings of the Hebridean Symphony available and the other two versions are both worth investigating too. The first is a live recording from 1968 by Boult with the Scottish SO on Intaglio, coupled with the equally powerful Pagan Symphony, performed by Maurice Handford and the BBC Northern SO (this is officially no longer available but still occasionally crops up on company lists and if you see it grap it while you can). The second is on a Marco Polo CD performed by Adrian Leaper and the Czechoslovak State Philharmonic and has the added advantage of being programmed with two 'lighter' works, the entertaining and highly pleasing Old English Suite and the Tchaikovsky-like Russian Scenes, neither of which is available elsewhere.

Believe it or not there are also three CD recordings of the Pagan Symphony in the catalogue. A recent release with Sir Edward Downes conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in a recording from 1984 can be found in the cheaply-priced BBC Carlton Series along with three shorter works by Bax, including Tingtagel. The symphony is also the principle work on Hyperion's second Handley/RPO Bantock CD where it is coupled with two Hebridean pieces Cuchullan's Lament and Kishmul's Galley, collectively entitled Two Heroic Ballads, plus one of GB's most well known works Fifine at the Fair. This too is essential listening, and another excellent point from which to approach the music of GB.

Fifine at the Fair was of course the one particular piece championed by Thomas Beecham, and a RPO recording from 1949, partly sponsored by the Bantock Society, is available on EMI's mid-priced Beecham Edition (though the conductor took it upon himself to edit the work slightly). Of course this first appeared on a 78, but was re-issued a number of times on LP. The other score with which Bantock's name is more commonly associated is The Pierrot of the Minute, and this can be found on a mid-priced Chandos Collect CD where Norman Del Mar conducts the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. The disc also contains other familiar pieces by Bridge and Butterworth and the works, originally released as an LP in 1979, have been digitally re-mastered.

The third issue in Hyperion's Bantock Edition contains three substantial works in the GB ouevre, Dante and Beatrice, the Helena Variations, and the 3rd Symphony, entitled The Cyprian Goddess. Absorbing as it is and a vital release for most Bantockians, it would probably not be the best place to begin investigating GB's music.

If your particular fancy tends toward the vocal rather than the orchestral then look no further than Hyperion's 4th Bantock issue and one of the noblest song cycles in all C20th British music, Sappho: Prelude and Nine Fragments for Mezzo Soprano and Orchestra. This is a major milestone-work and would surely delight even some of his severest critics and is another vital recording. The CD is completed by GB's Sapphic Poem for Cello and Orchestra with Julian Lloyd Webber as soloist and acts as a perfect coupling.

Less immediate and certainly much more of an acquired taste for many or most are GB's two half-hour choral symphonies entitled Atalanta in Calydon and The Vanity of Vanities: these can be found on an Albany CD performed by the BBC Singers conducted by Simon Jolly. Though some would suggest that these works are a far from successful 'experiment', for lovers of choral music especially they present a fascinating aspect of GB's work and there is indeed much to admire and the works have their devotees: but be prepared this is not GB at his most accessible.

GB wrote and arranged well over 100 piano pieces, but he did not compose an immense number of chamber works; though what there is contains some quite delightful music which deserves to be explored. Unfortunately there are only two instrumental pieces on CD: the short Pagan Poem played by Kenneth Smith, accompanied by Paul Rhodes on ASV's CD entitled 'The Reed of Pan: British Works for Flute, Vol.3'; and Violin Sonata No.3 in C on a United CD coupled with violin sonatas by Dunhill and Standford and played by Susanne Stanzeleit, accompanied by Gustáv Fenyó. For those really taken with GB's music these are a valuable contribution to his discography, but it would be pleasing to have a more thorough investigation of GB's chamber works, such as the string quartet In A Chinese Mirror, played on Radio 3 a while back and recently performed at the Thre Choirs Festival, or some of the Hebridean inspired items. A recent welcome addition to the Bantock CD catalogue is one of GB's piano works, Three Scottish Scenes. Although one critic considered these the duff item in Ronald Brautigam's collection of Scottish piano music, which also includes pieces by Cramer, Kiallmark, Mackenzie, Chisolm, and Stevenson, they are in fact more than pleasant and well worth hearing. The CD is a wee gem.

GB also wrote and arranged over 400 songs, but Bantock's vocal scores are very poorly served on disc and still remain to be explored. However, a couple of worthy items are available on CD. Especially interesting are the Orpheus Choir CDs 20 Classic Recordings which contains Sea Sorrow and O Light of Life which serves up Scots Wha Ha'e, Dumbarton Drums, and O, Can Ye Sew Cushions. These are digitally re-mastered recordings, originally released on 78s, and are available from the Moidart Music Group. The same company has also published a CD of performances by the Irish tener, John MacCormack, under the title Scottish and Irish Songs, and these include GB's arrangement, The Song of the Seals: the recording includes MacCormack's preamble in which he refers to the composer.

Right towards the end of his life GB wrote a small number of works for brass. Perhaps his most famous composition in this genre, Prometheus Unbound, dates from 1933 and this can be found on three separate CDs, two in recitals given by the Black Dyke Mills Band. The Chandos recording was directed by G.Brand, but the Polygram release under J.Watson has the added advantage of also including GB's brass arrangement of The Frogs of Aristophanes.

So, although there is not an immense number of recordings of GB's music in the catalogue and whilst there is a lot more to anticipate - notably a recording of Omar Khayyam - there is still much to hear that will surely delight and interest and perhaps surprise many. If you are new to GB then look no further than the Celtic, Hebridean, and Pagan Symphonies, The Witch of Atlas, Fifine at the Fair, and now Sappho all of which should not fail to reveal the compositional craft and musical stature of Granville Bantock.

LPs and 78s

For vinyl enthusiasts and committed Bantock aficionados there are some real goodies to be found, if you are willing to search for them, though many of the old 78 issues are now almost impossible to obtain, and for most of us are only known through tape recordings. (I am in negotiations to get these out on CD and with a little bit of luck some of the more worthy items of GB conducting his own works will be available soon). Some of the rarer discs do crop up very occasionally through second-hand dealers, but unless your funds are limitless and you don't mind re-mortgaging your house, be very careful as some dealers can ask quite unreasonable prices, sometimes even for less rarer items which, with patience, can often be had for a much more acceptable exchange of your hard-earned money. Also some dealers often pretend to know a lot about Bantock's recordings when in fact they know virtually nothing: for example, if you are offered a recording of the Pagan Symphony by the Versailles Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claude Dupre (one pompous dealer offered me this said 'prized item' for nearly £40), avoid it at all costs as it is in fact nothing more than a truly awful Canadian bootleg of the Maurice Handford recording now available on the Intaglio CD (unless of course you are a really obsessional completist in which case it may be cheaper in the long run to seek medical help immediately!).

The easiest records to find are naturally the more recent LPs. Geoffrey Heald-Smith's two City of Hull Orchestra LPs issued on the Gough and Davey label in the '70s are reasonably common and can be obtained for around £10 and are well worth seeking out. The first contains a recording of the Hebridean Symphony (which was featured in the LWT South Bank Show programme about GB in the mid-'70s) and the Macbeth: Overture. The second has Sapphic Poem for Cello and Orchestra, just recorded by Julian Lloyd Webber. Perhaps the easiest and cheapest record to get hold of is Nicholas Braithwaite's LP containing the Overture to a Greek Tragedy which was recorded for Lyrita in 1984. This can be found with little effort from good second-hand dealers.

The most eagerly sought-after recordings are those made by the composer himself in the Kingsway Hall on 15th November 1945 just 11 months before his death and which were originally released as Paxton 12" 78s. These are rare and you will be extremely lucky to come across them. The works in question are The Frogs: Comedy Overture (GTR101), Two Heroic Ballads (GTR102), Hebridean Sea Poems: Caristiona; The Sea Reivers (GTR102-3), and King Solomon: Processional (GTR104). If you come across copies grab them even if it entails foregoing the summer holiday! Only the first of these recordings was ever re-issued, when it was coupled with Walter Collins's London Promenade Orchestra recording of the Celtic Symphony and Dolf van der Linden and the Metropole Symphony Orchestra's Woman's Festival Overture on a Paxton 10" mono LP (GTR121). Copies of this do turn up for sale when the moon is blue and should not be too expensive either, though as GB gains in popularity prices are sure to increase. Dolf van der Linden also recorded The Birds: Comedy Overture and Macbeth: Overture released together on another Paxton 10" mono LP (GTR120). Walter Collins released a set of GB works on Paxton 10" LPs: Circus Life: Overture (PR410), Fairy Gold: Incidental Music (PR440), King Lear: Overture (PR500), and especially the lovely Four Chinese Landscapes (GTR118-9) are very much worth keeping an eye out for.

Bar one tiny item, namely Mazurka from Russian Scenes recorded by Fernand Heurteur and the Lutetia Wagram Orchestra for Colombia (D19267), the only other orchestral recording of particular note, as far as is known, is Sir Henry Wood's Queen Hall Orchestra recording of Pierrot of the Minute found on a Columbia 12" 78 (L1463). I suspect you will be very fortunate to ever see one of these in two lifetimes on earth.

In the last years of his life GB wrote a set of short pieces for Paxton's series of 'Mood Music' discs which were recorded by Anthony Collins and the London Promenade Orchestra. They have intriguingly exotic titles such as Cobweb Castle, Desert Caravan, Oriental Serenade, Twilight Memories, and Storm at Sea and if ever there is a TV series entailing such scenes and requiring a musical setting they might be just the ticket re-recorded. They are largely 'light', unassuming, impressionistic miniatures and, taken for what they are, contain some highly enjoyable items, and there are some fun moments: but some have been described as 'excruciating' and certainly they are not GB at his most serious or his most deeply expressive to say the least.

If you like Bantock and brass then there a few vinyl issues to covet. The Frogs: Overture (arr. D.Wright) was recorded by Sir Harry Mortimer with the Fairey Aviation Works Band and the CWS Band and both were released on LP; the former originally appeared as a 10" 78. Prometheus Unbound, available on CD, also first appeared on a 78 with Sir Harry this time conducting Foden's Motor Works Band, and he later recorded it with the CWS Band too. Solna Brass and the celebrated Black Dyke Mills Band have also done versions. The latter have also issued Foggy Dew and the Fairey Aviation Works Band conducted by C. Lamb released Land of the Ever-Young on LP. Fanfare for a Royal Occasion can also be found on an old HMV 12" 78 played by the Kneller Hall Musicians conducted by captain Adkins.

A couple of GB's choral works have also appeared on vinyl. Apart from the Orpheus Choirs's celebrated recordings previously mentioned and which are now available on CD, Walter Collins and the London Promenade Choir and Orchestra's Paxton 78s containing Elfin Revels and Lure of the Isles (PRT462), and Island Enchantment (PR441) may be mentioned; but especially noteworthy is GB's delightful arrangement of one of Kennedy-Fraser's Hebridean songs, Sea Longing (PR460). Other celebrated choirs have included several different GB arrangements in their recorded recitals: but one real find would be Standford Robinson and the National Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra's recording of two pieces from GB's Pilgrim's Progress released on a Columbia 12" 78 (9894).

Recordings of Bantock's songs and song arrangements have appeared on a number of recitals, including those by the likes of John McCormack and Kenneth McKellar and are well worth seeking out in second-hand record and charity shops as they can be picked up very cheaply if you are willing to spend time looking hard and long enough. Paul Franklin and his Orchestra also recorded two Russian songs arranged by GB for a Paxton 78 (PR663) but this is very rare indeed.

Happy hunting!

© Vincent Budd

South Uist, Outer Hebrides

St. Valentine's Day 2000

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