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ClassicsOnline Home » BANKS, T.: SIX Pieces for Orchestra (City of Prague Philharmonic, Englishby)
Tony Banks, founder member of rock band Genesis, has already written a much admired orchestral work called Seven (8.557466), which was praised for its ‘genuine melodic gift’ (Gramophone). His new work consists of six evocative songs without words which may evoke in the listener ideas of seduction, journey, hero, quest, decision and goal. Two of the pieces feature solo instruments—alto saxophone on Siren and violin on Blade—played here by elite soloists, which mesh into Banks’s orchestral tapestry with bewitching effect. The remaining pieces reveal his outstanding lyrical gifts and total command of musical narrative.
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Tony Banks (b. 1950)
SIX Pieces for Orchestra
During the last Genesis tour (2007) at the end of many interviews, each of us was asked what we intended to do next in our solo careers and in order. I think, to say something rather than nothing, I would say I wanted to do another orchestral work. I am not sure the idea was that concrete in my mind then but I did know that at some point I wanted to continue, as I had learnt such a lot from my first attempt, Seven, and felt I could approach a new project with more confidence. At that time I had only a little music actually written down but when I started composing specifically for this recording, ideas seemed to come thick and fast. As with Seven, producer Nick Davis has given me invaluable help throughout but the rest of the personnel are different from before.
With Seven a couple of the sections were arrangements of older pieces that had originally been piano-based but this time everything was written with the orchestra in mind. I also had the idea that this time I would like to have solo instruments, saxophone and violin, leading one or two of the movements. The approach on the two solos, however, was very different. For the saxophone-led piece, Siren, the melody was written as an integral part of the composition, later embellished but in all the sections the basis of the melody was always in my mind. With the violin-led piece, Blade, the whole melody was written on a framework that was finalised before the existence of the melody; incidentally this is the way many of the instrumental sections of Genesis songs were originally written. Indeed this is perhaps the only piece in this suite that would have worked equally well in the rock idiom, perhaps led by guitar. These two movements also changed the most from the demos as my original arrangements featured piano quite heavily, although I always knew I wanted to try and do them without piano. Fortunately with orchestrator Paul Englishby, I had someone who could help me to interpret them differently but still remain true to the original composition. The other four pieces slowly crystalized out of a series of improvisations over a period, originally played on both piano and combinations of orchestral samples. The final versions of these are more similar to the demos although Paul has worked his magic. With all the arrangements we had lots of going backwards and forwards between us, only falling out occasionally as I tried to protect some of my more exotic chords.
Recording in Prague gave us the opportunity to have rehearsal time with the orchestra, allowing us to remove all the errors in the scores which seemed to take up so much time when recording Seven. It also gave us the chance to hear things before recording, therefore able to make adjustments to the score and try alternatives. Using the Prague orchestra was very refreshing for me as not only do they have some great players, but they also had a genuine enthusiasm for the music.
I have known Martin Robertson, saxophone, for most of his life as his mother was a close friend, and have seen him perform many times, starting with a rather curious early piece by Mark-Anthony Turnage, while still at college, featuring Mark on piano, Martin on clarinet and a shop bell, played at apparently random moments by either of them. It was not obvious where either of them were heading at that moment! Since then he has become a top player, having done a lot of work with Mark as well as numerous other projects, film scores and so on. Charlie Siem, violin, was suggested to me as a possible soloist and listening to his playing I consider myself lucky to have someone so obviously in the ascendant on this record. I think what finally convinced me was seeing a clip of him playing some Paganini variations in the back of a black cab while driving around London in one of the Black Cab Sessions.
The titles of the movements refer to the elements of a universal story: seductress, journey, hero, quest, decision and goal. I leave it to the listener to fill in the details, although really it is just music, a story without words.
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