Granville Bantock

Granville Bantock (1868 to 1946) was a composer and academic who had considerable influence on musical life in Birmingham. He was appointed the first full-time principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of Music (now Birmingham Conservatoire) in 1900 and then in 1908 he succeeded Elgar as professor of music at Birmingham University – a post he retained until 1934.

In the 1930s he undertook international tours as an examiner for the Trinity College of Music while also managing to fit in some conducting on the way. The small suitcase he used is covered in labels for hotels, shipping lines, and early airlines. He stayed in hotels in Jerusalem, Bombay (Mumbai), Montevideo and Florida (amongst others) giving an idea of where he got to on his travels.

As a composer, Bantock continued to write throughout his life. His music reflects his varied interests - the exotic and mysterious East (seen very much through Western eyes), ancient Greece, Scottish and Hebridean folk music, and childhood. His earlier works included large-scale pieces for orchestra and choirs but in the 1920s and 30s his attention moved much more to piano music, sonatas for string instruments and songs.

Music particularly associated with Birmingham includes Omar Khayyám (a multi-part setting of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation for chorus and orchestra) of which parts 1 and 3 were first performed at the Birmingham Triennial Musical Festivals of 1906 and 1909. Fifine at the fair (a short work for orchestra) followed at the final 1912 Festival. The Seal Woman (a folk opera on Hebridean themes) was first produced at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre by Barry Jackson in 1924.

The Library of Birmingham houses the largest single collection of printed scores composed by Bantock together with some manuscripts. The principle collection of manuscripts is held by the University of Birmingham and the bulk of his correspondence is at the Worcester Record Office.

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