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William STERNDALE BENNETT (1816-1875)
Overture, The May Queen (1842) [6:27]
Overture, The Wood Nymphs (1839) [13:42]
Symphony in G minor Op. 43 (1863) [23:41]
Overture, The Naiades (1836) [12:32] *
Overture, Parisina (1835) [8:05]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite *
rec. early 1990s? London. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.206 [64.35]


 

Hearing Sheffield-born and Royal Academy trained Sterndale Bennett playing his own First Piano Concerto Mendelssohn invited the young Briton to Leipzig not so much as a pupil but as a friend. From then onwards until Mendelssohn’s death in 1847 Sterndale Bennett was often in that city breathing in the atmosphere of the Schumann-Mendelssohn milieu. It shows in his music although it lacks nothing in freshness and does on occasion push the envelope. For example amid the bright, sparkling and pointillist ebullience of The May Queen overture there are some remarkably predictive touches anticipating Dvořák. The Wood Nymphs with its cooling woodwind zephyrs also has its own, at first slow-pulsed, magic then gradually gains velocity and a devil-may-care zest that parallels the work of Weber in the overtures to Oberon and Euryanthe. The auburn autumnal tones of Dvořák 7 and Brahms 2 are there again in the much later Rhine-inspired Symphony in G minor from 1863. It’s a work of considerable and enchanting delicacy with a sturdier tone asserted in the finale. It would make a pleasing counterpoise to Schumann’s Rhenish symphony without quite that work’s picturesque grandeur but with a more Weber-like chuckle. Another Rhenish work is The Naiades overture – an artefact of Sterndale Bennett’s journey up the Rhine from Düsseldorf to Mainz in 1836. His downy-light Mendelssohnian hand is in evidence again but so also are those dramatic Weberian flourishes. Parisina is an earlyish work inspired by Byron’s poem of the same name. Here a darkly Beethovenian hand can be discerned along with the usual pleasing Weber and Schumann stigmata. It is however more laboured than the other three overtures.

Lyrita have packed this enterprising disc with customary care and these otherwise unissued recordings are from late sessions in the early 1990s and are fully digital. Braithwaite draws smooth playing from his two orchestras. The notes are by David Byers. They are in English only and are a supportive complement to this German early romantic-influenced music from a desperately neglected era in England’s musical history. Lyrita have already provided us with the piano concertos and those two discs should not be forgotten: SRCD.204 Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3; SRCD.205 Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 5. The Symphony has some competition; this time from Douglas Bostock on ClassicO where the coupling is one of Cipriani Potter’s Beethovenian symphonies. The coupling dictates your choice and priorities. Fine un-clichéed music-making either way.

Rob Barnett

see also reviews by Steve Vasta and Raymond Walker

 


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