Leon Bosch / Villiers Quartet / Jeremy Young

William Sterndale Bennett: Sextet in F sharp minor; Chamber Trio; String Quartet in G

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The British composer William Sterndale Bennett was something of a prodigy as a composer, studying in Germany and writing music during his teenage years that was admired by both Mendelssohn and Schumann. He followed the former in many respects, and when even that composer's stock dropped among critics, Bennett was all but forgotten, even in Britain. These ambitious chamber works, however, are well worth revival, and they get sympathetic, well-considered treatment here from the Villiers Quartet, plus or minus players. Most impressive is the Sextet for piano and strings in F sharp minor, Op. 8, which Bennett wrote when he was 19; its 13-minute opening movement is full of subtly channeled rhythmic currents of a kind unlike anything found in Mendelssohn. The slightly later Chamber Trio, Op. 26, has an attractive pizzicato slow movement and a precisely balanced virtuoso finale. The very early String Quartet in G major, WoO 17, was left unpublished by Bennett, who probably had the right idea; it's a student work in a Haydn vein, but certainly not bad for a 15-year-old. Hollow university auditorium sound detracts from enjoyment, but many who sample this release will be pleasantly surprised.

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