> Richard Rodney BENNETT 4703712 [HC]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Richard Rodney BENNETT (born 1936)
Piano Concerto (1968)a
Concerto for Stan Getz (1990)b
Waltz from Murder on the Orient Express (1974)c
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)d
Dream Sequence (1992)e
Stephen Kovacevich (piano)a; John Harle (saxophone)b; BBC Symphony Orchestraab; Alexander Gibsona; Barry Wordsworthb; Hollywood Bowl Orchestracd; John Maucericd; Julian Lloyd Webber (cello)e; Richard Rodney Bennett (piano)e
Recorded: Wembley Town Hall, January 1971a; BBC Hippodrome, Golders Green, London, March 1993b; Sony Studios, Culver City, USA, January 1993c; Hollywood, August 1995d and Henry Wood Hall, London, October 1993e
DECCA 470 371-2 [59:42]

Right from the start of his career, Richard Rodney Bennett showed his versatility in writing works of markedly different character. His ‘serious’ works, such as the Piano Concerto, the orchestral Aubade and the choral-orchestral Spells, displayed Bennett’s skills in writing serially influenced music that was nevertheless lyrical at heart and very accessible. As the superb Piano Concerto of 1968 amply shows, Bennett was never a strict serialist as his fellow composers Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle were at that time. Some parts of the Piano Concerto, e.g. the first movement, are delicately scored whereas the quicker ones have lively dance rhythms. (By the way, why does the sleeve and cover mentions this as Piano Concerto No.1?)

The later Concerto for Stan Getz, for saxophone and orchestra, obviously pays homage to the American jazz player but cleverly avoids the obvious traps in which the music might have fallen. No pastiche here, but a deeply felt homage, again in a quite accessible idiom.

The other pieces show the lighter side of Bennett’s music making. The gorgeous Waltz from Murder on the Orient Express is now world-famous and quite deservedly so, whereas the short excerpt from Four Weddings and a Funeral is a delightful vignette of great charm.

Bennett has repeatedly arranged well-known standards, and his arrangement of three songs under the title Dream Sequence was composed for inclusion in a disc compiled to mark the birth of Julian Lloyd Webber’s son (we are not told when this was actually composed). Light-weight stuff, maybe, but very enjoyable.

It is good to have Stephen Kovacevich’s reading of the Piano Concerto back in the catalogue; and, with the inclusion of the other pieces, this release is a good introduction to or a timely reminder of Bennett’s varied but never indifferent music. Nevertheless I find it a pity that this CD, rather short in terms of playing time, does not include either Spells, Aubade, Calendar or Commedia IV for brass quintet which were recorded by ARGO many years ago and that are no longer available at the time of writing, though Spells has been available on CONTINUUM some time ago. If some or all these pieces had been included rather than the film music snippets and the enjoyable, though light-weight cello work, I think that this release would have been a much better introduction to Bennett’s music.

Hubert Culot


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