February 6, 2007


Richard Rodney Bennett is a prolific composer with over 600 songs, compositions, scores, and concert works to his credit. Probably most known for his Oscar nominated scores Murder On The Orient Express, Far From The Madding Crowd, and Nicholas and Alexandra in the soundtrack/film world, this is just a scratching of the surface as far as this multi talented composer is concerned. The seventeen minute orchestral work from 1995, a commission from British Telecommunications, most assuredly falls into the category of a tonal melodic composition that sounds like it could very well have come from a film, unlike some of his other compositions. Bennett considered his work for films and television “journalism”, something which paid the bills, gave financial security, and allowed him to compose whatever else he chose. Besides being a fine jazz piano player and singer he also studied under and followed some of the teachings of Pierre Boulez quite the unique composer.

Partita is an Italian word meaning a very early form of an instrumental suite. This suite is divided into three sections an Intrada, Lullaby, and Finale. The beginning of the Intrada or introduction is right out of the pages of an opening of a dog running in a field with a young boy chasing close behind. Think of something that Bruce Broughton might have written and you’ll be on the right track. The ‘D’ Major key makes it bright and snappy (allegro giocoso) as the tune quickly moves into its central section which features short solos from the different woodwind instruments before it returns to restate the beginning theme. The second part begins as a small chamber piece featuring the strings followed by woodwinds. The central part offers a wonderful theme played by first the french horn and then the flutes. It is a theme that would easily fit into a reflective romantic film with the full orchestra swelling to play and restate the melody. It ends with the theme being played by a gypsy like violin. The third part is a vivo giocoso tempo in a Copland style (if it was just played for me without knowing, this is who I would have guessed). It is biting and staccato like before Bennett arranges his style and orchestration into the center portion with cat like creeping coming from the bassoons. The end of the Finale features excellent timpani work in a rousing conclusion to a very well performed work.

The Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Richard Hickox appears to have struck a homerun in their performance! I say appear because this was my introduction to this work and I have nothing else to compare it to. The orchestra was obviously well rehearsed and Mr. Hickox did his homework to fully understand the conducting of this piece. There is that feeling of the orchestra enjoying themselves while playing it. There are also three other works on this recording which will be discussed at a later date.

Definitely put this in the category of a classical recording that the soundtrack enthusiast will want to have in his collection. Mr Bennett did a fine composing job, the Watford Colosseum is a nice recording venue, and the Philharmonia and Hickox are in excellent form. Recommended.

Golden Score Rating is (***1/2)

Produced by Rachel Smith

Engineer is Ralph Couzens

Chandos CD# is 10389

Track Listing:

1. Intrada (5:00)

2. Lullaby (7:38)

3. Finale (4:57)



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