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Tony BANKS (b.1950)
Five: Five Pieces for Orchestra (orch. Nick Ingman)
Tony Banks (piano), Frank Ricotti (percussion), Skaila Kanga (harp), John Barclay (cornet), Martin Robertson (saxophone)
Czech National Symphony Choir; Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Nick Ingman
rec. 2017, CNSO Studio, Prague
NAXOS 8.574141 [57:50]

Tony Banks, the well-known founding member and keyboard player of the rock band Genesis, continues his recorded series of orchestral compositions. Naturally enough, although in reverse, Five follows on from Six, also on Naxos (review). This, likewise, was preceded by Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (review). The Seven review links to an interview with Tony Banks.  I’ve always had a respect for Genesis, particularly in the Peter Gabriel days. Since then he has gone on to an adventurous career. Tony Banks, in common with some other members of the band, was at Charterhouse School. He became a founder member of Genesis in 1967. Banks plays different instruments although he featured in Genesis mostly as a keyboard player. He is responsible for much of the group’s music and in later years started composing for films. For Banks classical music was a dominant voice and his compositions were especially influenced by Ravel, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Vaughan Williams and film composer John Barry. Following the success of Seven and later classical works Six, perhaps hints at mathematical progression towards the number One. Interestingly Van der Graaf Generator, a band that toured with Genesis in the early days, did an album called “H To He, Who Am The Only One” (Charisma); Generator’s keyboard player Hugh Banton has recorded Bach and Holst on the organ.

The Five ‘suite’ opens with Prelude to a Million Years, originally commissioned for and performed at the Cheltenham Music Festival. Banks’ influences are clearly apparent. The orchestration is based around Tony Bank’s demos and the playing here is very sumptuous and well recorded. Reveille is true to its name and its bugle call is imaginatively transcribed. There is the fine cornet playing by John Barclay as the music builds up; those who love the “Duke” (Charisma) era (1980) Genesis will undoubtedly enjoy this. It certainly conjures up pictures in the mind and would be highly suitable for soundtracks. Then comes the more tranquil Ebb and Flow which might be very suitable when on a long journey. Autumn Sonata has an air of reminiscing and a certain charm that I find alluring. It reminded me of some of the music by Murray Gold for the recent Dr Who. The final “Renaissance” with the choir is, Banks maintains, not based on a piece developed during a Genesis rehearsal session despite what promotional material for says. It does recall some of the earlier instrumental work but the orchestral idiom is very well integrated. There is a Celtic air when the violin enters preceding the composer on piano. It would be hard not to be moved by this piece and it’s probably the most successful here.

As with Six the orchestra is dexterous and navigates the dense textures with clarity. The conductor Nick Ingman does a fine job and the orchestra and performers are fully committed. The recording, which I heard in Ultra HD is spectacular and whilst not in Surround, certainly engulfs the listener.

Not all music needs to be an emotional tussle and it’s good to hear the work of a musician that I’ve always respected performed so well.
David R Dunsmore

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