WS Bennett, Bache

COMPOSERS: Bache,WS Bennett
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Stendale Bennett, Bache
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 4; Caprice, Op. 22Piano Concerto in E, Op. 18
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano); BBC Scottish SO/Howard Shelley
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67595
Sterndale Bennett’s Fourth Piano Concerto of 1838, his last (the so-called Fifth, unpublished during his life, is an earlier work) is also probably his finest. Written at 22 towards the end of his early mastery, it is by no means all Mendelssohnian in its style, having a sombre, rather Schumannesque first movement, an expressive Barcarolle for slow movement and a scintillating finale thrown off with patent enjoyment by Howard Shelley in this excellent recording. Something of Bennett’s powers as a pianist, much praised by Schumann and others, can be glimpsed in the ever-grateful but often highly virtuosic piano writing, which is also a characteristic of the enjoyable Caprice.

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The short-lived Francis Edward Bache, a star pupil of Bennett’s, died aged 24 of tuberculosis in 1858, but not before completing several works of distinct promise, above all the E major Piano Concerto of 1856, of which this recording is very possibly its first performance. Bache disliked Schumann’s music; Mendelssohn (and Bennett) are palpable models, but the piece has a nonchalant vigour and bravura, formal shapeliness and a bright, attractive personality of its own.

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Calum MacDonald