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Richard Rodney BENNETT (b. 1936)
Complete works for piano and orchestra
Piano Concerto (1968) [25:00]
Dream Dancing (1986) [15:35]
Reflections on a Theme of William Walton (1985) [16:25]
Party Piece (1971) [8:44]
Martin Jones (piano)
RTE National Symphony Orchestra/David Angus
rec. National Concert Hall, Dublin, 2008?
Experience Classicsonline

Metronome has been around since 1992. Its furrow has been shaped and directed under the imaginative hand of Tim Smithies. Their stable of recordings includes contemporary classical, early music and a measure drawn from the standard classical repertoire. The most attractive portion of their work lies in the championing of living composers. This includes music by William Mathias, Piers Hellawell, Adrian Williams, Harrison Birtwistle, Salvatore Sciarrino and, as here, Richard Rodney Bennett. Quietly and confidently they have been recording Bennett’s music for piano and this is the third volume although the fourth disc.

The Piano Concerto, of which this is the second recording, was a 1968 Feeney commission from the CBSO. It was premiered in September that year by the unsung but superb Hugo Rignold whose reputation rests securely on his Lyrita CBSO recording of the Bliss Music for Strings and Blow Meditations. Stephen Bishop (now Kovacevich) was the soloist threading his way through the lapidary tendrils of this work. The Concerto is a work emblematic of Bennett in its luxuriant delicate-dissonant profusion and of the metropolitan 1960s compositional style. The original recording of the Bennett is on Lyrita (see review) but it is not suited to a disc-by-disc comparison as the couplings are quite different and in the case of the Lyrita less generous in timing. The Lyrita is bound to retain a special historic authority and is extremely well recorded; as is this Metronome version. 

Dream Dancing dates from 1986. It is a work from his New York years and is scored for an orchestra of thirteen players. The London Sinfonietta commissioned it for RRB's fiftieth birthday. It is in two movements which resonate with the glint of the harpsichord amid an essentially Ravel-like impressionistic web. 

The Walton Reflections are from 1985 and again from New York. The Reflections are dedicated to Walton's memory and use the 12 tone theme from the finale of Walton's much deprecated Second Symphony. It is for 11 strings and piano and was commissioned by the Guildhall Ensemble. It is dedicated to Walton's memory. He had died in 1983. It is dignified and at times redolent of Rawsthorne. 

The little Party Piece is a lighter effusion for piano and orchestra. It's in his most approachable idiom. There are dashes of Copland in more demonstrative mode as well as an infusion of bluesy Gershwin at others. It was commissioned and premiered by that ferment of musical activity the Farnham Festival to which orchestras - often youth ensembles - gravitated in and around Surrey. It's a fun piece which now we can all enjoy. 

This seventieth birthday offering for Bennett includes his completed published music for piano and orchestra and is a sequel to two other Metronome volumes. There's MET CD 1068/69 a 2CD set of volumes 1 and 2 of the solo piano music (Martin Jones) and MET CD 1070: piano duos and duets (Martin Jones and Richard McMahon). Regrettably neither has been submitted for review as far as I can see although we really should be covering them. 

I see that in addition to the quietly effective Holst Foundation this disc has had funding from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. A single swallow but this gives me a grain of renewed faith in QUANGOs and government support for the arts in England. Well done! More please.
Rob Barnett 

Richard Rodney Bennett - Complete Works for Solo Piano on Metronome
CD 1: Noctuary; Impromptu (Haydn); Tango; 3 Romantic Pieces; Impromptu; Excursions; Memento (Dutilleux); Eustace & Hilda
CD 2: Sonata; Fantasie; Studies; Scena 1; Diversions; Week of Birthdays; Seven Days of the Week; Taking a Line for a Walk; Partridge Pie
Special Price 2 CDs for the price of 1 MET CD 1068/1069




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