BENNETT Orchestral Works, Vol 4 (John Wilson)

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Orchestral

Label: Chandos

Media Format: Super Audio CD

Media Runtime: 65

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: CHSA5244

CHSA5244. BENNETT Orchestral Works, Vol 4 (John Wilson)

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Troubadour Music Richard Rodney Bennett, Composer
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
John Wilson, Conductor
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 Richard Rodney Bennett, Composer
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
John Wilson, Conductor
Michael McHale, Piano
Aubade Richard Rodney Bennett, Composer
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
John Wilson, Conductor
Country Dances Book 1 Richard Rodney Bennett, Composer
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
John Wilson, Conductor
Anniversaries Richard Rodney Bennett, Composer
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
John Wilson, Conductor

I love the analogy Richard Rodney Bennett made when describing his multifaceted career as ‘different rooms, albeit in the same house’ – adding almost as a throwaway that he might have (unceremoniously) knocked down some of the walls between them. Vol 4 of this marvellous John Wilson retrospective reinforces once again just how well the open-plan approach works. Bennett – child of Boulez, refugee from the hardcore avant-garde – grew to embrace musical diversity of a Bernsteinian relish, and as this series unfolds, the inevitability of his journey becomes ever clearer. As always, the technique and composerly gamesmanship of his pieces consistently dazzles.

Troubadour Music is a ‘flourish’ for John Mauceri’s final Hollywood Bowl season in 2006 – a 13th-century minstrel song all gussied up and strutting its stuff beneath the stars of La-La Land. Worlds away from his 1968 Piano Concerto, which Stephen Kovacevich premiered in that year and which sets aside the traditional protagonistic and antagonistic role of the soloist in favour of a journeyman figure, an almost obbligato presence in an ever-shifting orchestral landscape. It’s an enticing piece full of textural allure and a solo part awash with virtuoso glitz and shimmer – beautifully taken here by Michael McHale, whose limpid fingerwork is possessed of a crystalline light-catching brilliance.

In each of these collections there has been something that has caught my ear for the first time and become a constant companion. Aubade is that piece here, commissioned for the 1964 Proms and offered in tribute to the conductor John Hollingsworth – an early champion of Bennett’s – who had died prematurely the year before. This morning song turned mourning song is another gorgeous specimen from the late-romantic hothouse, conveying a distinctly Bergian sensibility right through to the oscillating woodwinds that are so suggestive of the closing moments of Wozzeck.

Bennett’s Country Dances (2001) evolved from an archaic source (an anthology of folk dances written between 1651 and 1728), an enthusiasm from the past reimagined for the present and exercising Bennett’s enviable facility for making all his choices of instrumentation sound so natural as not to appear to be choices at all. ‘New Dance’ is wonderfully verdant, straight out of Thomas Hardy country, where it evokes a mood Bennett captured so gloriously in his movie score for Far From the Madding Crowd.

Anniversaries is his 1982 commission for the 60th-anniversary celebrations of the BBC and effectively a concerto for orchestra with a starring prominence given to the percussion section, the engine of the work’s episodic design. Above all, though, it’s another great example of how effortlessly (or so it seems) Bennett spins and develops ideas while wielding the largest of orchestras. And really all one can ask of performers – and John Wilson and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra deliver in spades – is a precision and virtuosity for music that sounds like it’s evolving in the playing of it. Keep it coming.

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