Reviews of Bantock and Armonico Consort CDs


BANTOCK REDISCOVERED: Marchant (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0183) ★★★
Sir Granville Bantock is a composer whose music is worth rediscovering. But I don't think that this album of his piano music, despite the excellent playing of Maria Marchant and fine recording quality, will make many converts. Bantock's talent was for orchestral music; his Pagan and Hebridean symphonies and brilliant tone poem Thalaba the Destroyer – a dead ringer for Tchaikovsky's Manfred – in terrific recordings conducted by Vernon Handley (Hyperion) are the place to start. One hopes we'll hear some during the CBSO centenary celebrations – his overture Saul was the first piece the orchestra played in 1920. Marchant plays a piano reduction of it but, since Bantock was no Liszt, it's not a patch on the original. The other music here, twenty-two short pieces, are all pleasant and well-crafted but, however felicitous Marchant's playing, unmemorable. The Twelve Piano Pieces are, the booklet notes confess, "drawing room" rather than "recital room" material.

SUPERSIZE POLYPHONY: Armonico Consort / Monks (Signum Classics SIGCD560) ★★★
Last year Armonico Consort and the Choir of Gonville & Caius College Cambridge embarked on an eight-date tour entitled Supersize Polyphony 360. They performed massive works from the 16th century: Thomas Tallis's 40-part Spem in Alium and the work which inspired it, Alessandro Striggio's 60-part Mass Ecco Si Beato Giorno. The performers encircled the audience in real-life surround sound – a thrilling experience. Surely the perfect opportunity for a five-channel SACD or audio BluRay recording. Opportunity wasted – Signum opted for a plain stereo CD instead. There is some splendid singing from both choirs – under musical directors Christopher Monks and Geoffrey Webber – but with attenuated aural impact. Listen to Spem in surround sound on XL Choral Works for 40 Voices with the Berlin Radio Choir under Simon Halsey (Harmonia Mundi) to hear how it ought to sound. Halsey's other items are also more imaginative than Signum's interspersed pieces by Hildegard of Bingen.
Norman Stinchcombe

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