Tony Banks is known as one of the founder members of the Genesis
band. He plays different instruments, though in Genesis
we saw him mostly as a keyboard player. He is responsible for
much of the group’s music, and in later years started
composing for films. Classical music was always a big influence,
and it was noted that his compositions were especially influenced
by the music of Vaughan Williams. Following the success of SEVEN - a Suite for Orchestra, Tony Banks continues with another
set of classical works, SIX. I wonder if this hints at
a mathematical progression, and in the end There can be only
Unlike SEVEN, where pieces written independently over a long
span of years were put together rather ad hoc, the elements
of SIX were conceived together, with the present program in
mind from the very start. The pieces can be appreciated as standalone
works, yet they form a logical suite. This is a long Odyssey,
where the hero travels the seven seas, seeing many wonders on
the way, until he reaches the goal.
The opening track, Siren, starts in lavish and ecstatic
manner: Behold the Sea itself! The alto saxophone sings
the song of the Siren. This song is not alluring or ominous;
to me it sounds like the excitement of the voyage, the longing
for far-away lands and the good wind in the sails. These are
the sparkling southern seas where Sindbad’s ship sailed
in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade. The music has
a constant forward momentum. There are pearls in the depths
of this sea, and bouncing waves on its surface. The voyage is
sunny and happy.
Still Waters are not still at all; they are just calm.
There is an enthusiastic feeling of endless vistas, the open
skies, and the fresh breeze. The music reminds me of Vaughan
Williams, in both his solemn and pastoral moods. The waves rise
to a beautiful climax.
Blade is more active and anxious while its structure
is rhapsodic. The solo violin powerfully soars above the orchestral
thickets. The mood is heroic and, although the opening speaks
of troubles - the only such place in the score - soon the music
becomes jubilant. It brought to my mind Elgar’s Sea
Pictures. There is something deeply British in these waves
of orchestral string sound.
Wild Pilgrimage has more of pilgrimage than it does of
wildness. Its calm solemnity reminded me of the Church Windows
of Respighi. If there is something wild, it could be the beauty
of the wide, wild nature: the open spaces, the hills and the
valleys that one can imagine while listening to this music,
the static beauty of Bruckner. This piece seems to lack a centre
of attention and is not really distinctive. It is the least
memorable of the SIX, but it looks good as part of the suite.
It starts quite “British-pastoral”, but the tension
grows until a swinging and gilded, Scriabinesque climax crowns
The Oracle is one of those wide-flowing, hymn-like tunes
that the children’s choruses love so much to perform.
Its structure is almost strophic; the soloing woodwinds repeat
the melody with slight variations. The mood is serene; this
is probably the sweetest track of the album.
The City of Gold is an appropriately grand finale, with
heavy brass and cymbal clashes. We are carried on great wings,
as in the finale of Sibelius’ Second Symphony.
The City of Gold opens in front of our eyes through the morning
mists; it grows and shines in the rising sun. This is the longest
of the pieces, but has excellent propulsion and passes in a
single breath. This was a happy journey, and the hero is tired,
but not troubled. The music is attractive and impressive, and
provides a good wrap-up for the suite with an atmosphere of
Overall the music is quite conservative, yet with enough invention
and talent to ensure listening pleasure. There are none of the
rock or pop connections that one could expect or dread. The
appeal does not come from conflict and drama, as the music is
positive and sweet; nor does it come from humor or comedy, as
it is not cerebral. It shares these qualities with the music
of John Rutter - sweet music with style and feeling, as serious
as light music goes, and as light as serious does.
The pieces are mostly monothematic and uniform, yet they are
far more than exercises. There is little thematic variation
and some repetition, which however does not turn into monotony,
mostly thanks to the good momentum and interesting orchestral
coloring. The orchestration was done by Paul Englishby, and
it is excellent, vibrant and inventive. He creates an iridescent
shine of orchestral colors, and the result belongs to him as
much as to the composer.
The orchestral playing is coherent. The orchestra is dexterous,
navigating the dense textures with clarity. The conductor handles
well the rhythmic foundation, maintaining constant drive throughout;
the music just flies forward. The soloists are virtuosic and
expressive. The recording is clear and spacious, highlighting
interesting details, yet without being overwhelming in the loud
places. All in all, an enjoyable journey.