This disc of choral works by Richard Rodney Bennett
opens with the eponymous My Dancing Day
a move that I
found rather brave bearing in mind the well-loved version by John Gardner
and Holst’s beautiful part-song, both setting the same text. My
feeling was that Bennett’s version failed to stand up to this
stiff competition, despite being an interesting and well-composed rendition,
with lyrical episodes interspersed with jazzier elements, and the use
of a fuller text than we find in Gardner.
This is followed shortly by another version of a classic - In the
Despite the Holst’s much-loved setting hovering
in the background, Bennett here provides a successful and highly atmospheric
work, with the effective word-painting on the word “moan”
drawing my attention in particular.
Having opened with four ostensibly Christmas works, the fact that the
rest of the disc contains works that do not seem to be particularly
associated with the festive seasons struck me as a little odd. This
is with the exception of The Apple Tree,
characterful and efficacious work, yet stuck in the middle of the disc,
separated from other Christmas works. This, however, was mitigated by
the realisation that these Christmas works are not “carols”
in the sense that a carol-singer might recognise, nor are they, in fact,
especially redolent of any aspect of Christmas. They work in this programme
just as choral works setting texts that are related to the birth of
In fact, the most Christmassy works here seems to me to be the New
, which I find deeply reminiscent of the tune Britten
used in Friday Afternoons
, but is nonetheless beautiful for that.
Town and Country
opens with an appropriately pastoral setting of
words from Wordsworth’s 1807 poem The Sun has long been set
which is juxtaposed with an upbeat, lively and modern setting of Charles
Morris’s The Contrast
, consequently extolling the virtues
of city life over country life.
There then follows another very effective setting of poems by the English
poet, John Skelton (c.1460-1529) in Serenades
, a five-movement
choral suite. It’s one of the main works on the disc. The contrasts
between the lyrical and the playful are successfully conveyed.
A variety of arrangements conclude the disc, including Gershwin’s
, Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady
Every time we say goodbye
, which I found increased my feeling
that this disc is something of an odd medley. Nevertheless, it does
contain some good works and the performances from the BBC Singers are
of the very highest standard throughout, with robust singing, good intonation
and enunciation and superb communication.
see also review by John