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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Richard Rodney Bennett - Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 (John Wilson)


Information

Composer: Richard Rodney Bennett
  • (01) Celebration
  • (02) Concerto for Marimba and Chamber Orchestra
  • (04) Symphony No. 3
  • (07) Summer Music
  • (10) Sinfonietta

Colin Currie, marimba
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
John Wilson, conductor

Date: 2017
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%205202

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Review

Richard Rodney Bennett wore his prodigious talent lightly – but he dispensed it generously. From hardcore Darmstadt beginnings to friendlier tonalities; from movies and TV to his passion for the American Songbook where his pianistic gifts shone so inventively. Was there anything he couldn’t say musically? No need to answer that – but rather to rejoice in the fact that his friend and champion John Wilson is honouring him in this new series for Chandos.

First up, Bennett arrives disguised as William Walton in a celebratory “fanfare” for orchestra – Celebration (1991) – whose wiry string figures and angular syncopations beg the question is this a tribute or an impersonation? Either way, it is very knowing and virtuosic and does exactly what it says in the title.

The Concerto for Marimba and Chamber Orchestra (1987-88) is an excellent example of Bennett exploring the possibilities of a particular instrumental “palette” and finding music which will best express its character. Dreamy and sensuous. It’s as if the marimba – in Colin Currie’s expert hands – has insinuated its way into someone else’s “trip”. It assumes a super-discreet, obbligato-like role outside of the cadenzas and the only concerto-like confrontation occurs in the second movement where it displays an uncharacteristic defiance.

Summer Music for Flute and Small Orchestra is Faure-esque and began as a piece (with piano) for budding flautists. Its simplicity (as in purity) is its charm but more than that it’s the kind of confection that Bennett could spin effortlessly. His Sinfonietta for Orchestra (1984) also hides its craft behind its spontaneity but in its integrated slow movement – Lento e dolce – delivers a melody of very particular Bennett inflection and sensibility. Just gorgeous. Far From the Madding Crowd (as in Bennett’s unforgettable score for the 1967 movie) is suddenly “in the air” once more.

But you will want this disc for Symphony No 3 (1987) – a work of quiet evolution and tiny revelations. Bennett counted the symphony his favourite piece and on the strength of this, my first encounter, I can see why. The fact that it came easily to him is reflected in its free-flowing development, the way in which the fine-spun melodic idea which opens it is, if you like, a theme in the making, an evolving idea in search of shape and form. It finds it at the climax of the first movement where the rhapsodising suddenly ceases and a sense of fulfilment is momentarily achieved.

The limpidity of the scoring is masterful – not least in the central Allegretto – but it is the oboe solo opening a magic casement on to the slow movement where the symphony begins to reveal its depth with increasing emotional intensity. That favourite composerly device – variation (and I’m now thinking also of Leonard Bernstein) – eventually brings about one final “transformation” of the main subject. Then a riposte from solo cello which, disproportionate to its brevity, moved me greatly – and one final consonance, a unison as simple as it is inevitable as it is revelatory. John Wilson and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra do the piece proud. I anticipate the next instalment eagerly.

-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2018/Feb/Bennett_orchestral_V1_CHSA5202.htm
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2018/Mar/Bennett_orchestral_V1_CHSA5202.htm
http://classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=14909
https://www.allmusic.com/album/sir-richard-rodney-bennett-vol-1-marimba-concerto-symphony-no-3-celebration-summer-music-sinfonietta-mw0003112697
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sir-Richard-Rodney-Bennett-Orchestral/dp/B075VWCMQN

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Richard Rodney Bennett (29 March 1936 – 24 December 2012) was an English composer of film, TV and concert music, and also a jazz pianist and occasional vocalist. Bennett studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Howard Ferguson, Lennox Berkeley and Cornelius Cardew, spent two years in Paris as a student Pierre Boulez. He was International Chair of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music between 1994 and the year 2000. Bennett wrote in a wide range of styles, producing over 200 works for the concert hall, and 50 scores for film and television. He was also a writer and performer of jazz songs for 50 years.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rodney_Bennett

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John Wilson (born 1972 in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear) is a British conductor, arranger and musicologist who conducts orchestras and operas, as well as big band jazz. He studied music at A-level at Newcastle College, and later attended the Royal College of Music, first as a percussionist, and later studying composition and conducting. Wilson is the creator of the John Wilson Orchestra (formed in 1994) and has been Associate Guest Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra since September 2016. He has made numerous recordings, both with his own orchestra and as guest conductor.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wilson_(conductor)
https://johnwilsonconductor.com/

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