Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 August 2019
The correspondence reproduced in this book represents the letters written by Granville Ransome Bantock (1868–1946) to his fellow composer William Francis Stuart Wallace (1860–1940) and to the music critic Ernest Newman (1868–1959) between 1893 and 1921. Although none of Wallace's replies have survived, and there is only one extant letter from Newman to Bantock, this collection of letters provides a fascinating study of the personal and professional relationships between the three men and their contemporaries at a crucial stage in their musical careers. When this correspondence begins, Bantock had completed his studies with Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music (after abandoning a potential career in the Indian Civil Service) and had already experienced some modest success as a composer. In addition to several early performances of his works at the Royal Academy of Music, the Strolling Players had performed three movements from his ballet suite Ægypt (linked to his published Egyptian drama Rameses II), and his Wagnerian opera Caedmar – written to his own libretto – had been produced at the New Olympic Theatre by Signor Lago. Wallace had completed his one-year studentship at the RAM in 1889, having formerly studied medicine at Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, and opthalmology in Vienna and Paris. He too had experienced some early compositional success; the Stock Exchange Orchestral Society had performed two movements from his music for The Lady from the Sea in February 1892, and his first symphonic poem, The Passing of Beatrice (based on canto 31 of Dante's ‘Paradiso’ from La Divina Commedia), had been premiered by August Manns at the Crystal Palace on 26 November 1892. Like Bantock, Wallace's Wagnerian enthusiasms identified him as an exponent of the ‘modern’ school of composition, which inevitably drew criticism from the more conservative press such as The Standard:
We are told that his Symphonic Poem [The Passing of Beatrice] is to be regarded as “more emotional than descriptive,” and it is, therefore, not to be looked upon as programme music. Its distinguishing feature is the intensely Wagnerian feeling which pervades it throughout, the composer having apparently sought inspiration from Tristan and Isolde and Parsifal, and in a less degree from Tannhäuser.