Bennett: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 (SACD)

Current Stock:
Howard McGill (tenor saxophone), Gordon Rigby (timpani), Scott Dickinson (viola), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, John Wilson

The recent partnership of John Wilson and BBC SSO on record reaches this second volume in their invigorating exploration of fascinating orchestral works by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.

Less well known than his widely famous film music (Murder on the Orient ExpressFour Weddings and a Funeral, etc.), the orchestral works featured here display the versatility with which Bennett contradicted the dogma of musical modernism at the time of their creation (60s-70s), as well as an evolution of his compositional style towards a musical language that spoke to audiences everywhere in the world.

From the glittering Symphony No. 2 – generating subtle yet engaging musical contrasts on a large scale – to the jazzy Concerto for Stan Getz – featuring the saxophonist Howard McGill who has established himself as one of the greats of London’s jazz scene – this album features works that break down the false walls between two musical worlds and will appeal to anyone willing to explore, discover, or simply enjoy great music.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


BBC Music Magazine

5 Stars

"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."

Gramophone Magazine

"What Bennett displays in the Partita is so redolent of William Walton…But most revealing of all – and perhaps the biggest testament to Bennett’s prowess as a composer – is the fact that whether he’s flexing his intellectual muscle in the Second Symphony, schmoozing in the Sax Concerto’s slow movement or simply having a good time in the Partita, this is unmistakeably the work of the same composer."

Sunday Times

"Anyone who knows Bennett’s rewarding idiom from his film scores won’t find anything to frighten the horses — the bluesy Concerto for Stan Getz is the longest piece here, at just over 21 minutes — but the gritty Symphony, amiable Serenade and tuneful Partita are worth rediscovering in Wilson’s empathetic performances."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


  • Concerto for Stan Getz
  • Symphony No. 2
  • Serenade
  • Partita

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Colourful, vibrant and accessible: Richard Rodney rules!



Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) was an English composer who worked in many genres. (His full name is usually spelled out, so as not to confuse him with the American Broadway orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett.) Richard studied with Pierre Boulez: His early compositions were 12-tone (such as the first two symphonies and the Piano Concerto he wrote for Stephen Kovacevich). From the beginning of his musical career he was also a jazzman, playing piano with such artists as Cleo Laine and Marian Montgomery and writing for jazz ensembles. Another early work was the ballet Jazz Calendar. He wrote several film scores, notably Far from the Madding Crowd, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and for the first and easily superior version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Bennett's grand Ravelian waltz as the locomotive leaves the station in that movie is a brilliant piece. From 1979 the composer was based in New York, where he often performed his own arrangements of the songs of Gershwin, Cole Porter and others in a cabaret setting.

Chandos embarked on a series of Bennett's concert works under Richard Hickox, but the conductor's sudden death in 2008 brought it to a halt after one release. This disc is the second in a new series conducted by John Wilson, a specialist in American and/or jazz-influenced scores. It opens with the exciting Concerto for Stan Getz (which the great tenor saxophonist never got to play), done here with gusto and panache by Howard McGill. The outer movements are jazzily rhythmic, while the bluesy central Elegy is reminiscent of the film music of Henry Mancini. The Second Symphony (1967) follows. Premiered in the USA by the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein and in England by the London Symphony Orchestra under André Previn, it is tightly structured but still with a glittering orchestral surface. The Serenade of 1976 and the Partita of 1995 are gentler pieces, obviously English in tone with more than a hint of William Walton. The Partita (which is the only crossover with the earlier Hickox disc) contains a lovely viola solo, beautifully rendered here by Scott Dickinson.

This is the work of a highly skilled composer with a sunny outlook on life, who could not resist making his music accessible. Crisp Chandos sound reveals all...