Bantock: Sappho; Sapphic Poem

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Sappho; Sapphic Poem
PERFORMER: Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), Julian Lloyd Webber (cello)RPO/Vernon Handley
Hyperion’s Bantock series continues with another exotic subject – the loves of Sappho, the Greek poetess who lived on the island of Lesbos. Bantock employs a large orchestra, used with great imagination to evoke an erotic and sensual atmosphere. The nine songs which follow the passionate and voluptuous Prelude show the changing emotions of the love-lorn poetess. Susan Bickley is a splendid Sappho, rising magnificently to the challenge of these dramatic and demanding songs. In the opening ‘Hymn to Aphrodite’ she is superbly strong. Song by song, she reminisces sadly and recollects the sweetness of passion; and by turn she is petulant, threatening, vindictive and despairing. The haunted atmosphere of ‘The moon has set’, in which Sappho is tormented by dreams, is particularly impressive. The Sapphic Poem is again ‘full of erotic sentiment’. Handley and the RPO bring their usual passion and virtuosity to both scores – a pity that Lloyd Webber cannot equal their fire and conviction. Ian Lace