Bantock: Thalaba the Destroyer; The Song of Songs Prelude; Processional; Caristiona; Prelude & Camel Caravan (Omar Khayyám)

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COMPOSERS: Bantock
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Thalaba the Destroyer; The Song of Songs Prelude; Processional; Caristiona; Prelude & Camel Caravan (Omar Khayyám)
PERFORMER: RPO/Vernon Handley
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67250
It’s probably better to ignore the programmatic elements in Granville Bantock, and just concentrate on the music. The Processional is a solemn extended march, with a lilting central section, but hardly a telling depiction of a royal Indian funeral, complete with suttee. There’s a strong flavour of Tchaikovsky, who was plainly a great influence on Bantock: Thalaba the Destroyer is full of music that might well have strayed in from Romeo and Juliet or Francesca da Rimini, and it’s certainly fluent and well orchestrated, though overlong at 25 minutes. If Bantock hadn’t been so intent on mirroring all the ins and outs of the story, he could have made a much more concise and effective piece out of the same material. But he did favour projects of great length, with the complete Omar Khayyám and Song of Songs each lasting well over two hours. The extracts here are self-contained and effective, apart from the dated fake orientalism of ‘Camel Caravan’. Best of all is a short treatment of the beautiful Hebridean song Caristiona, which is relatively simple and unpretentious by Bantock’s standards. Handley is as strong an advocate as always, though a few rough edges betray the orchestra’s understandable unfamiliarity with the music. Martin Cotton

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