Bennett is best known as an orchestrator for shows and perhaps best of all
for his Symphonic Portrait of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. His
success with shows secured his commercial future. However he was also busy
in the field of 'serious' composition.
Lincoln inspired many American works. The most exposed remains Copland's
Lincoln Portrait for orator and chorus but the roster of Lincolniana
is long and distinguished and the present symphony forms part of the orchestral
A Lincoln Legend MORTON GOULD
Lincoln - Requiem Aeternam HERBERT ELWELL
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address works by JOHN BECKER and FERDY
Lincoln The Great Commoner CHARLES IVES
Symphony No. 10 Lincoln ROY HARRIS
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight - works by EARL GEORGE, ROY HARRIS,
Abraham Lincoln Song WALTER DAMROSCH
Lincoln Address VINCENT PERSICHETTI
Lincoln (unfinished) JOHN KNOWLES PAINE
When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd -
When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd - requiem
(I would like to hear of other works on the theme of Lincoln)
Bennett wrote four numbered symphonies:-
No. 1 written in Europe (1926)
No. 2 Lincoln - A Likeness in Symphony Form (1929) premiered by Stokowski
No. 3 (1941) inspired by Baseball - The Dodgers
No. 4 (1963)
There is also an un-numbered Stephen Foster Symphony (1954) for chorus
and orchestra. This has been recorded on LP.
The symphony on this disc was written for the 1929 RCA Victor competition
judged by Stokowski, Olga Samaroff, Koussevitsky, Frederick Stock and Rudolph
Ganz. The munificent prize ($25,000) was split equally five ways: between
Copland's Dance Symphony, Bloch's Helvetia, Louis Gruenberg's
Symphony (remember Gruenberg's high power violin concerto recorded by Heifetz)
and the two works on this disc. Bennett had entered one serious work and
the other a much lighter work. Both won alongside the Bloch, Copland and
The Symphony is a work of serious and poetic spirit with much of the pugnacious
Northern poetry of Hanson's first two symphonies. Indeed Hanson seems to
have been something of an influence and certainly he supported Bennett's
works in concert performances throughout his life. This symphony is well
worthy of that devotion. The hoarsely throaty horns captured in forward splendour
in this recording are the coronets and laurels of this most rewarding recording.
The initial moderato ruffles musingly lyrical waters with fragments
of the belligerent Johnny Comes Marching Home. Apart from Hansonian
coups there are also some typical Roy Harris eruptions from the brass. The
second movement has a restive oboe song and some silky string playing as
well as a jaunty cavalry patrol at 2.00. The Allegro Animato (III)
has a flouncy dynamically glancing texture - a virtuosic helter-skelter of
slides, runs and wilderness hunting calls. The finale is characterised by
those grand, stabbing and abrasive horns in full flight and hunting clamour.
This is a most rewarding work well attuned to those who love their Hanson,
Roy Harris and Malcolm Arnold (anticipating his waspish exuberance and tense
lyricism by at least a decade) but with a twist and skew all its own.
The Sights and Sound suite - entitled an 'orchestral entertainment'
is the lighter of the two pieces. It is not however light in the Ferde
Grofé sense. It is more a dashing concerto for orchestra - a work
alive with the chaotic collage spirit of a child's colouring book. The work
bursts with impressions: poetic, popular, banal and catchy. It seems a natural
counterpart to the John Alden Carpenter works like Krazy Kat,
Skyscraper and Adventures in a Perambulator. A slightly jazzy
atmosphere crosses its pages but not suffocatingly so. The voices of people
like Stravinsky (Rite of Spring), Constant Lambert (Piano Concerto),
gamelan and Bartók are not far off and if some of these voices seem
advanced for the time the coating given to these influences is candy without
being saccharin. Nothing is tough to take on. As a series of contemporary
sketches it is more successful than George Lloyd's similarly themed 1960s
collage Charade. Another voice is that of Vaughan Williams and he
also glances out through the pages of the symphony. The fruity-chirpiness
of the sax at track 9 (0.35) in the Fox-Trot is a winner.
This piece is much better than the notes and the movement titles (Union
Station, Highbrows, Lowbrows, Electric Signs,
Night Club, Skyscraper, Speed) hint. This is
no Grofé or Coates-style novelty box of tricks
and I like both
composers, by the way.
Great notes by Bennett biographer George J Ferencz.
A valuable collection with plenty to enjoy. In fact, all in all, quite a
revelatory disc - a jewel in the Naxos crown. A CD that makes me want to
hear more Bennett. How about the other symphonies?