RICHARD RODNEY BENNETT (1936-2012): Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 - Symphony No. 1, Reflections on a 16th Century Tune, Zodiac, A History of the Thé Dansant for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 04U008
Reference: CHSA 5230
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: More from the composer with the unparalleled ability to cross genre boundaries and sound equally authentic in all of them. What we said about the 2nd Symphony, from 3 years later (08U008), bears repeating here, as the two works have more than a little in common. "The concentrated, dramatic symphony is based on serial methods, with which Bennett was of course thoroughly conversant (he had, after all, been a Boulez pupil), but which he did not see as being in opposition to tonal relationships and harmony. So although the work is tough, and relatively astringent, the mechanisms underlying its construction stay firmly in the composer's workshop." Expressively there is something Waltonesque about the outer movements' sinewy verve, and even the harmony is not dissimilar, despite Bennett's compositional template not being based on tonal principles. The lovely, tranquil middle movement is a response to the composer's meeting the love of his life, the tenor Dan Klein. Like many modern British composers, from the most conservative to the avant-garde, Bennett had an interest in early music, and this is reflected in the gorgeous - and tonal (1999) - set of variations on a melody from the chanson En l'ombre d'ung buissonet (1536) by Josquin des Prez that makes up Reflections; one variation is dedicated to Peter Warlock, prominent in the revival of early English music. Zodiac, from the 1970s, lies somewhere in between, stylistically; largely tonal if appropriately astringent (it was dedicated to Elisabeth Lutyens), it consists of twelve brief tone pictures and five ritornelli, depicting the signs of the zodiac throughout the year. Evoking the genteel, insincere façade of the inter-war 'tea dance' came naturally to Bennett, and his three clever popular dances (two foxtrots and a tango) setting witty, ironic texts by his sister, Meg Peacocke, has something in common with Walton's Façade. Sarah Connolly (mezzo), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; John Wilson.