Richard Rodney Bennett
Symphony No. 2; Serenade; Partita; Concerto for Stan Getz
Howard McGill (tenor saxophone), Scott Dickinson (viola); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5212 (hybrid CD/SACD) 69:25 mins
The second volume of Chandos’s series devoted to the orchestral works of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) consists of music from four of the ‘compartments’ into which his prolific creative life can be divided. The fluent, confident young master of 12-note technique is represented by the dramatic single-movement Second Symphony, which was written in 1967 for the New York Philharmonic; the imaginative composer of music for young performers is revealed by the 1976 Serenade for small orchestra, with its closing Nocturne full of Latin-American rhythms. The 1990 Concerto written for the saxophonist Stan Getz (though he sadly died before he had an opportunity to perform it) shows Bennett as ‘crossover’ composer, fully at home in jazz idioms; the 1995 Partita belongs to his stylistically relaxed, and very tuneful last period.
The performances of all these works, under the composer’s friend John Wilson, are exemplary. The players of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra treat Bennett’s melodic lines with just the expressive flexibility they need, and meet the technical challenges of the Symphony with aplomb. Howard McGill brings the expertise of a seasoned jazz soloist to the Concerto: the central Elegy, in slow waltz time, is quite simply gorgeous. The handsome recording (with an SACD option) does justice to the playing and to Bennett’s always lucid orchestral sonorities.