The Fifth and Seventh symphonies are examples of Bentzon's
metamorphic style. The Fourth Symphony premiered only eight months before
the Fifth was itself entitled Metamorphoses.
The Fifth Symphony is in five movements together
coaxing tension and channelling its release. The Moderato's fast
under-pulse develops into an apocalyptic whirlpool. Solo violin lines
chant out Hovhaness-like (6.20) amid a plangent bed of strings - Tippett-like.
The urgency of the Allegro (II) gives place to remarkable visual
metaphors suggestive of crystal caverns and pugnacious little marches.
The Panufnik Tragic Overture has similar ragged brass descents.
The Adagio is a great string edifice - essentially cold but warmed
fitfully by furnace heat. Bentzon has also learnt something about the
inexorable building of tension from Shostakovich. The second Allegro's
fast-switching kaleidoscope is relieved by the dreamy Sostenuto.
A high warble from the strings suggests supernatural fantasy. All
is resolved in a cloud of held woodwind notes descending into warm and
classically poised repose.
The Seventh Symphony is from 1952. It is a single
movement fusion of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and
1940s vintage Shostakovich. Bentzon had his effect on Robert Simpson's
4th and 5th symphonies and this can be heard here. Savage warlike skirls
wrestle with terse little rhythmic cells, pithy, apophthegmatic, clipped
yet speaking of a primal drive. There is the occasional shade, as at
16.34, of Nielsen 4 and 6. The work ends in a troubled peace ruffled
by fears and shaken by experience.
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