Granville Bantock

Granville Bantock (1868-1946) was born in London. His father was an eminent Scottish surgeon. His younger brother was the dramatist and film director Leedham Bantock. Granville Bantock was intended by his parents for the Indian Civil Service but he suffered poor health and initially turned to chemical engineering. At the age of 20, when he began studying composers’ manuscripts, at South Kensington Museum Library, he was drawn into the musical world. His first teacher was Dr. Gordon Saunders at Trinity College of Music. In 1888 he entered the Royal Academy of Music where he studied harmony and composition with Frederick Corder, winning the Macfarren Prize in the first year it was awarded.

Early conducting engagements took him around the world with a musical comedy troupe. With his brother Leedham Bantock he wrote a couple of music hall songs which met with some success. He founded a music magazine, The New Quarterly Music Review, but this lasted only a few years. In 1897, he became conductor at the New Brighton Tower concerts, where he promoted the works of Joseph Holbrooke, Frederic Hymen Cowen, Charles Steggall, Edward German, Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford, Corder and others, frequently devoting whole concerts to a single composer. He was also conductor of the Liverpool Orchestral Society with which he premiered Delius’s Brigg Fair on 18 January 1908. He became the principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of Music in 1900. He was a close friend of fellow composer Havergal Brian. He was Peyton Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham from 1908 to 1934 (in which post he succeeded Sir Edward Elgar). In 1934, he was elected Chairman of the Corporation of Trinity College of Music in London. Bantock was knighted in 1930. His students included the conductor and composer Anthony Bernard and the composer Eric Fogg. In 1898 he married Helena von Schweitzer (1868-1961) who acted as a librettist for him.

His music was influenced by folk song of the Hebrides (as in his 1915 Hebridean Symphony) and the works of Richard Wagner. Many of his works have an “exotic” element, including the choral epic Omar Khayyám (1906–09). Among his
other better-known works are the overture The Pierrot of the Minute (1908) and the Pagan Symphony (1928).

Shortly after the composer’s death in London in 1946, a Bantock Society was established. Its first president was Jean Sibelius, whose music Bantock championed during the early years of the century. Sibelius dedicated his Third Symphony to Bantock.
Edward Elgar dedicated the second of his Pomp and Circumstance marches to Bantock.

Further Reading

BBC Sounds, Composer of the Week – Granville Bantock, Host:  Donald Macleod and Lewis Foreman