This is the fourth CD from Hyperion dedicated to Bantock's works and continues to confirm this composer's reputation as one of the stalwarts of his day, both orchestrally and in imagination.
"The Song of Songs" was recently released on Dutton Laboratories in a historic recording, but this is an infinitely more luscious sounding interpretation with some wonderful playing from the RPO under Handley. The conductor understands Bantockian idioms in an uncanny sort of way especially in the "Omar Khayyam" sequences, these need an oriental passion and lingering sense of mysticism to bring off, qualities which Handley espouses almost to perfection. I found the "Caristiona" wonderful in its almost mystical effects, this is music on the highest inspirational planes, demonstrating Bantock's supreme gift at orchestrating such legendary subjects. The "Processional" is also extremely beautiful, at times one can almost get lost in the swirling sound world that envelops the music.
Finally, there is "Thalaba the Destroyer", a 26- minute panegyric of the epic Celtic legends, a tour-de-force of orchestral brilliance and sensational power. This is a shamefully neglected opus that should definitely be resurrected from the oblivion in which it lies. However, it will suffice to say that this performance should prove to be well nigh unsurpassable on all counts, recording and aesthetically wise.
The superbly atmospheric front cover and typically copious notes will entice any music lover, this is now my recommendation for Record of the Year!
Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech