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Richard Rodney Bennett: Songs Before Sleep
Bennett is renowned for his film scores and his jazz performance as much as for his challenging concert works.
His film music includes scores for Far from the Madding Crowd, Murder on the Orient Express and Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Richard Rodney Bennett has long had a private passion for making collages (and knitting!) and the cover image on this CD is one of his creations, currently displayed at an exhibition of his work in Chelsea.
Born in Broadstairs, Kent, in 1936, he has lived in New York City since 1979. Richard Rodney Bennett received a CBE in 1977, and was knighted in 1998. Bennett studied with Pierre Boulez in Paris.
This new recording spans five decades of Bennett’s song-writing, cherry-picking some of his most accessible and lyrical pieces, from the melodic Songs Before Sleep, performed by Roderick Williams, to the 1920s dance rhythms of A History of the Thé Dansant, the dramatic and rarely-performed Tom O'Bedlam's Song for tenor and cello (written for Peter Pears) and the enchanting A Garland for Marjory Fleming.
A wonderful recording, stunningly performed by a collection of internationally acclaimed soloists.
“[Bennett] creates a campy 1920s-ish idiom, well captured by the versatile Iain Burnside...Benjamin Hulett, with Oliver Coates, sings with commendably Pearsian fervour...Susan Bickley adds mezzo bite to Dream-Songs, while Roderick Williams infuses Songs before Sleep with just the right dark warmth.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2010 ****
“Performances are uniformly excellent; this is a beautifully judged and planned disc, an undiluted pleasure.” The Guardian, 16th September 2010 *****
“What a treat this is! Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, 74 years young, continues to delight audiences the world over...he also possesses a very special gift for word-setting, if this addictive anthology is anything to go by...Performances throughout are without blemish - and a special word of praise for the supple and intuitive accompaniments by Iain Burnside.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2010
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Richard Rodney Bennett - Orchestra Works Volume 1
…it’s a most beautifully written piece, as Paul Watkins was eager to reveal. The Times
“It's hard to imagine a more beguiling start to this series or a more appealing introduction to Richard Rodney Bennett than this CD. It begins with a Partita that has a spring in its step and the breeze of the countryside blowing through it.
Bennett's way with fashioning long strands of melody is a special feature of his lyrical writing.
It's a gift he may owe, in part, to the songwriters he admires, like Kern and Arlen. In the Lullaby second movement there's a glorious outpouring of instrumental song ravishingly realised by the Philharmonia under Hickox's fervent direction.
The finale has players paired off in the manner of a concerto for orchestra.
A chanson by Josquin provides the theme for the Reflections on a Sixteenth Century Tune, which enshrines a homage to Peter Warlock, whose Capriol Suite similarly drew on Renaissance music.
The scoring is breathtaking, with soloists highlighted against the muted string ensemble. Jonathan Lemalu characterises Before Sleep well with colour, dynamics and some exquisite quiet singing in the upper voice, notably in Bennett's memorable setting of 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'.
Reflections on a Scottish Folk Song ('Ca' the yowes') was written in memory of the Queen Mother. It's the most substantial piece here, with a formidable cello part played with great feeling by Paul Watkins. There is a Scottish lilt in some of the variations, a beautiful Interlude, and a brilliant finale that concludes pianissimo, like a Scottish mist enclosing by stealth. It's hard to imagine anyone not being enraptured by this CD.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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