We are pleased to offer a unique look into Bantock’s brilliant mind with this Urtext edition of his Sapphic Poem. The Sapphic Poem is a 15-minute piece for cello and piano (or orchestra), composed in 1906 in Broad Meadow Kings Norton for cellist Willy Lehmann. Novello published it for cello and piano in 1908 and for cello and orchestra in 1909. To date, there are only two recordings of the work: one by Gillian Thoday (1978 (https://youtu.be/9mTQq7BjArU) and the other by Julian Lloyd Webber (1999). Apart from the recordings, the work has likely been performed publicly between ten and twenty times since its premiere in 1906.
The Sapphic Poem is composed in one continuous movement. In the autograph score, Bantock includes a fragment by Sappho in Greek with an English translation underneath, quoted from Henry Thornton Wharton's Sappho: Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings, and a Literal Translation. Bantock’s tonal language in the Sapphic Poem is distinctly British; however, one can also hear Wagnerian and Russian influences. The main key of the piece is B minor. The middle section is in F# minor and the return of the main theme is in E major. The piece ends peacefully in B major. While the cello writing is lyrical throughout, one of the cadenzas requires the cellist to play nineteen notes on an up-bow staccato.
It is our desire to bring this tribute to Sappho, the greatest poetess of the ancient world, to the 21st-century audiences in a faithful edition based on the composer’s manuscript.