Arthur Benjamin wrote the Jamaican Rumba -- but don't hold it against him. Once one of the most instantly recognizable tunes in the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Rumba's extraordinary success quickly damned Benjamin in the eyes of critics who condemned even his serious works as the product of a musical lightweight. This 2007 Lyrita release may go some way toward redeeming Benjamin's reputation. Although half the disc includes works that would have to be called light -- Overture to an Italian Comedy, Cotillon, A Suite of Dance Tunes, and especially North American Square Dance Suite -- the other half features a work that would have to be called serious -- the 45-minute, four-movement Symphony. Always brilliantly scored, infectiously rhythmic, and instantly attractive, Benjamin's light works cannot help but raise a smile on all but the most hardened critical faces. And with a sternness, a strength, and a concentration that nearly match the best contemporary English works in the genre -- Vaughan Williams' Sixth and Alwyn's and Tippett's firsts -- Benjamin's Symphony cannot help but impress all but his most incorrigible foes. Superbly played by three sets of performers -- Myer Fredman leading the Royal Philharmonic in the Overture, Nicholas Braithwaite leading the London Symphony Orchestra in the Cotillon, and, best of all, Barry Wordsworth leading the London Philharmonic in the Square Dance Suite and the Symphony -- this disc is recommended to anyone who enjoys English modernism. Although half in stereo and half in digital, Lyrita's recorded sound is consistently clean, deep, and warm.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Cotillion Suite, for orchestra|
|North American Square Dance for orchestra, Nos 1-8, complete|
|Symphony No. 1|