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Richard Rodney Bennett

Somm Recordings celebrates the sublime choral music of Richard Rodney Bennett with eleven first recordings and a vivid new recording of his choral masterpiece, The Glory and the Dream.

Performed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, directed by Paul Spicer and with dexterous support from organist Nicholas Morris, The Glory and the Dream: Choral Music by Richard Rodney Bennett (SOMMCD 0184, release date 29 June 2018) features twelve varied and vivacious choral pieces composed over more than fifty years. The disc's striking title work sets Wordsworth's ode Intimations of Immortality to music that conjures childhood rapture and adult fears with the utmost finesse and feeling, and features a fearsomely complex and challenging organ accompaniment.

Dating from 1961, the earliest pieces here are Two Madrigals in which Bennett treats the rich ornamentations of the seventeenth century to a wholly modern perspective. The most recent work, One Equal Music, a sinewy, austere anthem with a serene ending, was completed in February 2012, just ten months before the composer's death at the age of seventy-six.

Bennett's fascination with the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras is also to be found in the elegiac partsong A Contemplation Upon Flowers, the vocal fanfare This Day and Time, a sombre meditation on the finality of life and lasting effulgence of Christ's eternal being, and the simple but affective carol I wonder as I wander. Other seasonal pieces include the early, plainchant-infused The Sorrows of Mary, the gentle 'hush song' Lullaby Baby and late, substantial Remember, O thou man, a fervent and heartfelt prayer ending in quiet contemplation.

English composer, jazz pianist and collage artist Richard Rodney Bennett was born at Broadstairs, Kent on 29 March 1936. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Howard Ferguson and Lennox Berkeley. Exposed to serialism whilst at Darmstadt with his friend Cornelius Cardew for summer music courses, he later studied in Paris with Pierre Boulez for two years. Despite this, his musical tastes were wide-ranging, including jazz, film music and a kind of neo-Romantic serialism.

He wrote more than two hundred concert works (including Sonnets to Orpheus, The Mines of Sulphur and Spells and The Garden - A Serenade to Glimmerglass). His later music became increasingly tonal. His fifty scores for film and television include Murder on the Orient Express, Lady Caroline Lamb, Far from the Madding Crowd and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

As a pianist, recital partners included Susan Bradshaw, Jane Manning, Barry Tuckwell, Cleo Laine, Marion Montgomery and Claire Martin.

He taught at the Royal Academy of Music from 1963-5, and again later, from 1994 until 2000, as International Chair of Composition. His students included British composers Michael Berkeley, Paul Patterson and Graham Williams, and the Canadian-born trumpeter and flugelhorn player Kenny Williams.

In 1979 Bennett emigrated to the USA and settled in New York City, where he died on 24 December 2012.

Previous Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir recordings on SOMM have included admired recordings of choral music by Herbert Howells, Samuel Barber and John Joubert, together with partsongs by Ireland, Delius and Stanford.


Posted: 14 June 2018

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