>Granville Bantock [CT]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Granville BANTOCK (1868-1946)
King Lear Overture
Kubla Khan

Prometheus Unbound Symphonic Prelude
The Land-Of-The-Ever-Young

The Frogs (Of Aristophanes) Overture
Orion Dramatic Overture
Festival March

University of Salford Brass Band-Dr. Roy Newsome
Recorded Maxwell Hall, University of Salford
DOYEN DOYCD 109 DDD [66:40]

Doyen Recordings £11.49

Granville Bantock was closely associated with the brass band movement throughout his long and active career as composer and educationalist. His initial interest was partly due to the famous cornettist, J A Greenwood, who played in a professional military band Bantock conducted during a period as musical director of the New Brighton Tower Pleasure Gardens. Greenwood went on to become one of the most famous cornettists in the band world whilst Bantock was to become the first ever President of the Bandsmans College of Music. In reality however his interest in amateur music making extended well beyond brass bands and throughout his life he produced a steady flow of works for amateur choirs as well as bands.

To my knowledge this is the first time a complete anthology of Bantocks music for band has been released and what it immediately shows is the somewhat erratic quality of the composers inspiration. Of the two most enduring works, Prometheus Unbound and The Frogs, it is not difficult to see why they have retained a place in the repertoire, still often surfacing as test pieces at band contests today. Both of these works display a freshness, if not originality of melody, as well as a sense of inner drama and pacing that is not always evident in the other works. Interestingly, The Frogs is the only work not to have been scored for band by Bantock himself, this being left to the Australian born cornettist and arranger Frank Wright, who arranged the overture as the test piece for the 1952 National Brass Band Championships (amongst Wrights other fine arrangements for band are Berliozs Roman Carnival and Benvenuto Cellini overtures). The Shelley-inspired Prometheus Unbound on the other hand, written in 1933, was later reworked by the composer as the opening movement of a work for chorus and orchestra. Although there are occasional moments of insecurity in the playing and intonation there is much to enjoy in the performances of both works, The Frogs being particularly effective (try the dream-like sequence from around 6:25).

As previously hinted the other works hold less interest, although Kubla Khan and The Land-Of-The-Ever-Young both feature some attractive melodic writing. Kubla Khan is an arrangement of a work originally written for six part male voice choir and shows Bantock in "oriental mode" whilst The Land-Of-The-Ever-Young, written at the very end of his life, finds him returning to another favourite theme, the Hebrides.

King Lear and Orion are the longest works of the seven and perhaps this is one of the reasons that I found them lacking sufficient interest to sustain my attention throughout. Again, there is attractive melody and a sense of organic structure but ultimately there is little that lingers in the memory. The same can be said of the Festival March, a suitably rousing conclusion to the disc, yet little to distinguish it in terms of melodic originality.

Although I found myself wanting a little more excitement in the performances at times, Roy Newsome and his Salford University Brass Band acquit themselves well in repertoire that will be essential listening for any Bantock enthusiasts. I found the recording to be just a little recessed, affecting the lower end of the band slightly but the sparser textures in particular come through with fine clarity.

Christopher Thomas.


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