Monday, 26 August 2013

Granville Bantock: ‘Hebridean Symphony’ at Edinburgh, 1930

I am doing research into early performances of Granville Bantock’s superb Hebridean Symphony which was first heard at Glasgow on 1 February 1916. There was a later performance at Edinburgh on 6 November 1930. The Reid Symphony Orchestra gave their ‘second concert’ of the season under the baton of Professor Donald Francis Tovey.  It was part of the University of Edinburgh’s Sixty-Eighth Session of Reid Orchestral Concerts.  It was certainly an event I would love to have attended.  I located a review in 7 November 1930 edition of The Scotsman.
Music which was written by Scotsmen or was inspired by things Scottish was a prominent feature of the evening. Dr J.B. McEwen’s now forgotten ‘Prelude for Orchestra’ was performed before Bantock’s seascape. The reviewer felt that in spite of an ‘occasional roughness’ both works were ‘well played.’  The Prelude is a ‘dreamy mystical composition, which has no ‘programme’ and which needs none.
Other works in the programme included the rarely heard ‘Faust Overture’ by Richard Wagner which dates from 1839/40 and was intended as the first movement of a Faust Symphony. It was never completed; however the music was revised in 1844 and again in 1855. He incorporated ideas from his sketches for the planned movements.  This work can be heard on YouTube
Unfortunately there was little emphasis in the review about Bantock’s Hebridean Symphony. It notes that the thematic basis of this work was derived from Mrs. Kennedy-Fraser’s ‘invaluable collection of folk-music.  He writes that ‘of ‘programme’ in the sense of plot or of story, there is none…’  The intention of the work was clear. ‘More detailed in outline and colouring, it might be taken to represent the splendour of the Celtic past, as [McEwen’s] Prelude reflects the sense of mystery.’

Brahms Symphony No.1 occupied the entire second half of the concert. The Scotsman’s reviewer noted that it was a ‘broad and clear interpretation, in which everything fell into place.’  

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