Quite a debut this.
A mixed one in one sense, a sense perhaps
hinted at by a glance at the programme.
The excellent choice of the Szymanowski
juxtaposed with much more popular fare
sits slightly uneasily, even given Benedetti's
evident excellence. And the use of a
'Music Minus One' track (i.e. the Massenet
Meditation in purely orchestral
guise, with the solo line omitted) seems
just strange. One can download the music,
but this is 5'37 not for listeners,
nor for any instrumentalists apart from
violinists; still, I could always whistle
it, I suppose.
It is the Szymanowski
that distinguishes the disc. Benedetti
plays supremely well, exhibiting a maturity
far in advance of her years. Harding
expertly sets the aural scene with its
shifting, glittering colours and active
woodwind, against which her long, high
melody sings. Her sound is not overly
sweet, giving backbone to her expression,
and she resolutely refuses to over-sugar
this music; which is plenty sultry and
perfumed as it is. Harding makes the
orchestra play with a luxurious flow.
The second movement
begins nocturnally before flickering
Scherzo activity. Benedetti, for the
record, seems to have no technical problems
The finale shows how
Benedetti can hold a silence ... within
her superb cadenza. Here the orchestra
enjoys itself, but listen especially
to Benedetti's gorgeous high, pure line
at 4'12. She really understands this
music; no small achievement for someone
her age. The catalogue is not exactly
crowded with 'great' Szymanowski firsts.
I would pick Benedetti against all comers
as it currently stands, especially given
the high standard of the recording and
accompanying. The London Symphony Orchestra
clearly relishes this Polish journey!
that follows has a lovely slinky orchestra,
with Benedetti caressing the line most
affectingly. Her touch is light and
one can really savour the crystal-clear
recording. The work is played romantically,
but not overly so, as is correct. The
rapid scalic work is smooth but never
mechanical. A word of warning, though.
Do not run straight on from the Szymanowski,
despite my colleague Rob Barnett's statement
that the Szymanowski 'can trace its
blood-line back to Saint-Saens' Havanaise'
. This may be true, but one should savour
the moment after the Szymanowski closes.
To run straight on does Saint-Saëns
no favours at all.
The Chausson Poème
has a lovely abandoned quality to it
in Benedetti's hands. Her youth means
she can meet the demands of the score
with an impeccable technique that she
can use to express herself fully – and
she does so.
is extremely well-known. Here it flows
magnificently without the slightest
touch of syrup about it. Benedetti's
musicality is beyond doubt, but as if
to confirm its status she then gives
us the magnificent Brahms song, 'Wie
Melodien zieht es mir', shading the
line superbly and just to prove it is
not all her show, there is a gorgeous
clarinet solo at the end.
Finally, a work written
expressly for her – Tavener's Fragment
for the Virgin - the actual final
track of the disc is actually the solo-less
Massenet. I assume Tavener's Virgin
is the Virgin Mary, given Tavener's
previous output. I have to confess finding
this rather simplistic, meandering pseudo-mysticism
frankly irritating but I am sure it
has many admirers.
Do hear this for the
truly excellent Szymanowski, then have
a cuppa and come back to enjoy the rest
of the disc for what it is – an easy-on-the-ear
set of well-crafted delights. Apart
from the Tavener, of course.
And before you ask,
no, I haven't tried the Benedetti ring-tones.