ARTHUR BENJAMIN (1893-1960): Symphony, North American Square Dance Suite (London Philharmonic Orchestra; Barry Wordsworth. New recordings never previously issued in any format), Overture to an Italian Comedy (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Myer Fredman), Cotillon - A Suite of Dance Tunes (London Symphony Orchestra; Nicholas Braithwaite).
Catalogue Number: 06I064
Description: Certainly the find of this Lyrita release, this proves that a brilliant light-music composer can also be a deeply-affecting, serious symphonist. Cotillon is a 1938 collection of old English tunes à la Warlock's Capriol Suite and North American (1951) does the same thing for American and Canadian fiddle tunes while the 1936 overture is a perfect example of the "comedy overture". But the symphony (no recording date but the best bet is the early 90s when Lyrita's regular releases stopped coming out, leaving the 6-9 CDs of unreleased material which will be coming out over the next year or so) is 44 minutes of "the despairs and hopes of the time in which I live", as Benjamin put it following his completion of the work in 1945. It is a war symphony to stand with the best (i.e., Roy Harris, Vaughan Williams, Bernard Herrmann the recently recorded Arnell Third, etc.), taking the usual form of three movements of uncertainty, anxieties, full-throated passions and coming through to a joyous finale, cunningly constructed from the same motivic units which provided all that came before.