Richard Rodney Bennett: Piano Concerto; Commedia IV; Five Studies; Capriccio

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At the corner of cool jazz and serial technique, the hot spot where sweet lyricism and edgy modernism met, you'll find Richard Rodney Bennett. A brilliant pianist, a skilled jazz player and arranger, a trained dodecaphonic composer, and above all a superb craftsman, Bennett has made his mark in several genres. This 2007 Lyrita disc features Bennett as both brilliant pianist and serious composer with a program, including his four-movement Piano Concerto from 1968, his Five Studies of Piano Duet from 1962-1964, his single-movement Capriccio for piano duet from 1968, and, as an offbeat addition, his Commedia IV for two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba from 1973. It's hard to say which of the four performances is the best. The Five Studies are played most convincingly by the composer himself, but the Capriccio is played just as convincingly by the composer and his friend and fellow composer, Thea Musgrave. Similarly, the Piano Concerto is played with tremendous energy by Stephen Kovacevich, the pianist who gave the work its world premiere, accompanied by Alexander Gibson leading the London Symphony Orchestra. The Commedia is played with terrific verve by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, the ensemble for whom it was written. For fans of English twentieth century music who don't already know Bennett's music, this disc is a first-rate introduction. Recorded in stereo in the early '70s, Lyrita's sound is utterly natural no matter what the size or type of performers.

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