Chandos has done it again - here is another fully-loaded disc of glorious orchestral works in stunning SACD sound.
Richard Rodney Bennett may be better known as a composer of film scores, but I am thrilled to see Chandos embark on what appears to be a series of discs dedicated to his orchestral/symphonic works (this one is labeled Volume 1). Interestingly, Chandos had begun a similar series of this composer's symphonic works in 2006, conducted by the late-lamented Richard Hickox. Sadly, after only one installment, that project was abandoned. (There is also a 2000 Chandos disc of Bennett's film music, conducted by Rumon Gamba, in their splendid "Chandos Movies" series.)
Fortunately for us all, Chandos has seen fit to revive/continue its exploration of this fabulous composer, this time around with the very talented conductor, John Wilson. None of the music on this disc duplicates what's on the previous recording from Hickox.
In contrast to a very modern-sounding compilation of Bennett's orchestral and piano music on Lyrita (2007), most of this Chandos release could be considered "British Light", as it is lighthearted in nature and mood and filled with lush, colorful orchestration and a multitude of singing, melodic lines. The Symphony (#3) included in this set is a highlight, bringing more symphonic weight and compositional structure to Bennett's usual style.
The one piece which falls short of the achievements of the rest is his Marimba Concerto. I admit I'm not a fan of the marimba as a solo instrument, and this concerto certainly does nothing to improve that feeling, sounding as it does like meandering, pointless nonsense. Nonetheless, its 16 minutes' length is easy to skip over with a click of the remote.
Setting aside the concerto, this disc's generous 62 minutes overall playing time still offers us nearly 50 minutes of glorious, enjoyable orchestral music - all played with the utmost refinement and beauty by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, in absolutely splendid SACD sound. This is my favorite disc of the year so far and I heartily recommend it.