Bantock: Pagan Symphony: Fifine at the Fair; Two Heroic Ballads

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Pagan Symphony: Fifine at the Fair; Two Heroic Ballads
PERFORMER: RPO/Vernon Handley
Bantock’s music is exciting, accessible and brimming with memorable melodies. Amazing then that this is the first stereo recording of the Pagan Symphony and the first complete recording of Fifine at the Fair. Vernon Handley’s latest offering with the RPO, which follows on last year’s much acclaimed release of the Celtic and Hebridean symphonies, confirms Bantock as a master of orchestration and a brilliant creator of scene and atmosphere. There are virtuoso passages for practically all instruments of the large orchestra. Of particular importance is his writing for brass to heighten the effect of his perorations; the horns, for instance, emphasise the tenderness and constancy of Elvire’s music. His ability to pile climax on climax creates great tension and excitement. The influences of Wagner, Liszt and Richard Strauss are evident but not overriding. The Pagan Symphony inhabits a world of classical antiquity with frolicking fauns, satyrs and the awesome majesty of the gods. In Fifine Handley vividly conveys the hurly-burly of the fair (echoes of Petrushka) and points up the beautiful melodies that represent the sensuous flighty character of Fifine and the contrasting enduring love of the wife Elvire. The Two Heroic Ballads are miniature tone poems. No mere fill-ups these, they brim with passion and adventure. For me it is the British Music Record of the Year – and every retailer should be using this as a demonstration disc. Ian Lace