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William STERNDALE BENNETT
Overture, The May Queen (1842) [6:27]
Overture, The Wood Nymphs (1839) [13:42]
Symphony in G minor Op. 43 (1863) [23:41]
Overture, The Naiades (1836) [12:32] *
Overture, Parisina (1835) [8:05]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite *
rec. early 1990s? London. ADD
Hearing Sheffield-born and Royal Academy trained
Sterndale Bennett playing his own First Piano Concerto Mendelssohn
invited the young Briton to Leipzig not so much as a pupil but
as a friend. From then onwards until Mendelssohnís death in 1847
Sterndale Bennett was often in that city breathing in the atmosphere
of the Schumann-Mendelssohn milieu. It shows in his music although
it lacks nothing in freshness and does on occasion push the envelope.
For example amid the bright, sparkling and pointillist ebullience
of The May Queen overture there are some remarkably predictive
touches anticipating DvořŠk.
The Wood Nymphs with its cooling woodwind zephyrs
also has its own, at first slow-pulsed, magic then gradually gains
velocity and a devil-may-care zest that parallels the work of
Weber in the overtures to Oberon and Euryanthe.
The auburn autumnal tones of DvořŠk
7 and Brahms 2 are there again in the much later Rhine-inspired
Symphony in G minor from 1863. Itís a work of considerable and
enchanting delicacy with a sturdier tone asserted in the finale.
It would make a pleasing counterpoise to Schumannís Rhenish
symphony without quite that workís picturesque grandeur but
with a more Weber-like chuckle. Another Rhenish work is The
Naiades overture Ė an artefact of Sterndale Bennettís journey
up the Rhine from Düsseldorf to Mainz in 1836. His downy-light
Mendelssohnian hand is in evidence again but so also are those
dramatic Weberian flourishes. Parisina is an earlyish work
inspired by Byronís poem of the same name. Here a darkly Beethovenian
hand can be discerned along with the usual pleasing Weber and
Schumann stigmata. It is however more laboured than the other
Lyrita have packed this enterprising disc with
customary care and these otherwise unissued recordings are from
late sessions in the early 1990s and are fully digital. Braithwaite
draws smooth playing from his two orchestras. The notes are by
David Byers. They are in English only and are a supportive complement
to this German early romantic-influenced music from a desperately
neglected era in Englandís musical history. Lyrita have already
provided us with the piano concertos and those two discs should
not be forgotten: SRCD.204
Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3; SRCD.205
Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 5. The Symphony has some competition;
this time from Douglas Bostock on ClassicO
where the coupling is one of Cipriani Potterís Beethovenian symphonies.
The coupling dictates your choice and priorities. Fine un-clichéed
music-making either way.
see also reviews by Steve
Vasta and Raymond
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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