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Classical Music Review

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Composer: Stuart Hancock
Conductor: Levon Parikian
Performed by: Jack Liebeck (violin) and the BBC Concert Orchestra
Label: Orchid Music Limited
RRP: £13.99
5 060189 561117
Release Date: 22 November 2019

While composer Stuart Hancock has long been associated with writing concert music, Raptures represents his first album of original classical compositions. Released via Orchid Music Limited, Raptures represents 9 pieces (1 hr, 18 sec)...

I've long been a fan of Stuart Hancock's work for TV and film. His compositions remind me of the same emotional energy and attention to detail that John Williams brought to the cinema in the '80s. I was always curious to know, freed from the restraints of composing to picture, what Hancock would deliver. The end results speak for themselves, and while I loved his previous work for film and television, it's now very clear, thanks to the music contained on Raptures, that he's been holding back on us.

His work on The Last Belle, Crazyhead, Atlantis, Hawk, Underground, Bodyguard: A New Beginning and One Night In Turin illustrate, beautifully, why he's currently one of the most versatile composers working today. But what Raptures delivers is an emotional roller coaster of a ride. It has the level and depth of some of the greatest composers to have lived, whilst being instantly accessible to everyone. At times it's like a reworked, modern version of The Henry Wood Promenade Concert's 'Last Night of the Proms', in that it has British patriotic sounding pieces that you'll almost instantly warm to.

Emotionally this really does tug on the old heart strings, being mainly a collection of melancholic, yet strangely uplifting pieces. There's a filmic quality to the opening two works, 'Variations on a Heroic Theme' and Concerto for Violin and Orchestra: I - Adante Maestoso - Andante Semplice'. 'Variations on a Heroic Theme', once again, brought to mind John Williams at his best, while Andante Maestoso reminded me very much of the work of David Shire, whose score for Return to Oz is still one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Sure the film wasn't great, but the music is something else.

There's the occasional nod to Gustav Holst, Antonín Dvořák and Sergei Prokofiev (Most notably in 'Raptures - Suite for Orchestra: I - Fathom') as well as countless other notable composers, but it's more in the way the orchestra is employed rather than any similar themes.

Some of the music from Hancock's incredible The Last Belle comes from a similar place as 'Raptures - Suite for Orchestra: II - Rush' and 'III - Lullaby'. And for me that brought a huge grin to my face, as I love his score for The Last Belle.

While this is foremost a collection of classical pieces, there's enough warmth and strength of themes that will also see this being embraced by soundtrack collectors as well.

There isn't a wasted moment here. Each track has an emotional core that shines through. Without a doubt Hancock's finest release to date.


Darren Rea

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