Name: Omar Khayyam
Composer: Granville Bantock
Artists: Olivia Robinson, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Toby Spence, Roderick
Williams, BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Vernon Handley
It is tempting to describe Granville Bantock as the musical Cecil B DeMille of his day. Certainly he had a mind for the epic, the colourful and the exotic. China, Ancient Greece and Arabia inspired him and the fact that he sometimes reached for forces on a scale suitable to his mammoth subjects has probably not helped rescue him from his relative obscurity.
The first modern recording of his massive, three-hour choral spectacular Omar Khayyam is a triumph. A setting of the Rubaiyat, the verses of the Persian poet and astronomer Khayyam are rather gloomy to read. But Bantock successfully conjures a sense of the glory of life, of love, of art itself and of the cosmos. Mike Ashman, who reviews the CD in Gramophone, says that, throughout the lengthy performance, genuine symphonic interest rarely flags, and points to a large orchestra with extra wind and brass, a choral virtuoso with frequent use of unaccompanied, tricky-to-pitch passages and three soloists on stage in roles of operatic length.
And which conductor would you rather have at the helm than that master of English music, Vernon Handley? He inspires his BBC forces to magnificent heights, in a reading to match the ambition of the endeavour.
The full review is published in the November issue of Gramophone, on sale now.
Win this month's CD
We have five copies of Omar Khayyam, to give away. For a chance to win one, send an email to GPlife@ haymarket.com, titled 'Omar Khayyam', by Friday 16 November, giving your GMC number and postal address.
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