This is the sixth disc in Vernon Handley's admirable Bantock series that brings out the treasure trove of works long neglected. The famous 'Song of Songs' finds company with the rare 'Overture to a Greek Tragedy' and the première recording of 'The Wilderness and the Solitary Place'.
As usual, Handley directs with masterful effusiveness and a glorious feel for the style of this much neglected composer. The Overture is one of Bantock's best works, matching expansiveness to romantic vigour and it comes across as very powerful in this ideal reading.
'The Wilderness and the Solitary Place' is a delightful ballad that combines mercurial orchestration and a fine soprano voice, ably interjected by Elizabeth Connell. 'Pierrot of the Minute' has been recorded before by Handley on Chandos but this version is superior both sonically and interpretatively.
One of Bantock's greatest works, the sprawling "Song of Songs' is here presented in substantial excerpts from the Second, Third and Fifth Days'. The composer's overt fascination with things oriental is clearly evident here and Handley finds mush lush beauty and gorgeous sonics from this masterpiece.
Again, Connell and Begley prove to be persuasive soloists in this very Victorian music but Handley also coaxes beautiful orchestral playing from the RPO. Although these are not works of the absolute front rank, they are hugely important to our understanding of Victorian music and as that, they receive a sincere and heartfelt recommendation.
Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech