About this Recording
8.574141 - BANKS, T.: Five (T. Banks, Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Choir, N. Ingman)

Tony Banks (b. 1950)


In 2013, I was approached to write a piece for the following year’s Cheltenham Music Festival, which I readily agreed to as this seemed a good opportunity for me to have one of my orchestral pieces played live, which had not happened before. The whole experience was quite nerve-racking but educational, and it made me realise that I wanted to take a different approach when recording with an orchestra in the future. Since then I have written more music, creating this suite, and although I tried very hard not to end up with five movements as it seemed to predictable after my two previous suites, Seven and Six, I couldn’t fight it, so here we have Five.

On both my previous orchestral suites I had recorded demos, some more finished than others, and then worked with an arranger to make the pieces work for an orchestra; recording was then done with the full orchestra and at the end of a session or two we had the finished article. Sometimes this worked fine, but other times I felt the piece did not end up quite as I had originally envisaged. I think to ask an orchestra to do a performance of a piece they have never heard before, and have rehearsed very little, is asking a lot.

So, as I have done on past rock projects, I decided to use my demos as the template, and record all the piano parts at home. I then worked in more detail on the template, and recorded all the piano parts at home. I then worked in more detail on the orchestral arrangements at this early stage, so the arranger, Nick Ingman, could transcribe all my parts to be played by the orchestra, and then add his own magic. We then recorded the orchestra in sections—strings, brass, woodwind, percussion and harp all separately, as well as the soloists and choir—all with Nick conducting. This gave us a much greater ability to perfect the individual parts, and it also meant all the tempos ended up as I originally intended. Another advantage was to have much greater control over the final mix, and as before I owe much to Nick Davis for his input at all stages.

The opening piece, Prelude to a Million Years, was the one originally written for Cheltenham, although the arrangement is a little different. The original working title was Arpeggio, which suggested what I was trying to do with the piece—using arpeggios to keep the music flowing, suggesting time passing. Those familiar with the works of Lynd Ward will know I have borrowed another one of his titles (after Wild Pilgrimage from Six), but I feel it works for this piece.

Reveille features the playing of John Barclay on cornet, managing to make all the high notes which were so much easier for me to play on a keyboard. The piece has two related themes, but done at very different speeds.

The main theme of Ebb and Flow is hinted at the very start, and each time it returns it is more embellished, it is only played in full at the end. There is a second faster melody played on the soprano sax by Martin Robertson, (familiar to those who know some of my previous work) which never repeats quite the same.

Autumn Sonata had the working title New and Old, as it is a marriage of a very recent piece of writing with one written earlier which had never found a home. For those interested, the opening minutes, which are also recalled towards the end, are the ‘new’, whereas the middle sections are the old.

The final piece, Renaissance, was the last written, although the opening drone part and the first melody are adapted from a composition I discovered on an old tape from back in the day when I was trying to get a film music career going, maybe 20 years ago. I felt it had a strong atmosphere and the rest of the piece came quite quickly after hearing those initial ideas. The melody on the first theme is played on the duduk, which Martin was keen for me to use, as well as being sung by the choir, making an effective combination. The second half of this piece was the last thing I wrote for this suite; this especially, but probably the whole piece recalls my earlier life in the world of prog rock.

Tony Banks

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