Bennett: Kandinsky Variations

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Metronome
WORKS: Kandinsky Variations; Four Piece Suite; Capriccio; Suite for Skip and Sadie; Over the Hills and Far Away; Fanfare on a 16th-century Tune
PERFORMER: Martin Jones, Richard MacMahon (piano)

Richard Rodney Bennett is an accomplished pianist, and for many years had a thriving piano duo with the late Susan Bradshaw. Not surprisingly, his music for four hands on one and two pianos is written with a flair for effective figuration and a keen ear for sonority. This applies in particular to two essays in his lucid, uncluttered brand of 12-tone technique: the 1968 Capriccio for piano duet and the inventive 1977 Kandinsky Variations for two pianos. But it’s also true of his lighter works in both media – including the 1974 Four Piece Suite for two pianos, which includes a ‘Ragtime Waltz’ that Scott Joplin would have been proud of. 
Martin Jones, on the third leg of his complete Bennett series for Metronome, is well matched by Richard MacMahon in some dazzling interplay, clarified in the two-piano pieces by an exceptionally clear recording. One or two tempos aren’t quite convincing: for example, the Suite’s ‘hard rock’ Finale seems rather sedate. But both players are expert at creating a wide range of colours. Anthony Burton