Chamber Trio; String Quartet in G; Sextet in F sharp minor
Jeremy Young (piano), Leon Bosch (double bass); Villiers Quartet
Naxos 8.571379 77:30 mins
Best known for his piano concertos, William
Sterndale Bennett also wrote a notable body of chamber music. This new release, if a little uneven in places, still shines a welcome light on three little-heard works. Most substantial is the Sextet in F sharp minor, a colourful and tightly-structured work for string quintet (including double bass) plus piano. Written in Bennett’s final year of study at the Royal Academy of Music, the Sextet is closely modelled on Mendelssohn, with whom he warmly corresponded for several years. The Villiers Quartet are a touch low on energy at the work’s opening, and intonation is not always secure; however, Jeremy Young brings sparkle and a real sense of narrative to the virtuosic piano part. The finale happily draws a compelling performance from the whole ensemble who provide all the drama and exuberance that Bennett’s score demands.
Bennett viewed his ★aydnesque String Quartet in G major as something of a technical exercise, and the Villiers Quartet offer a commendably committed if slightly rough-edged account in this premiere recording. More appealing is the Chamber Trio. The most mature of the three pieces featured, the work abounds in warmth and humour, especially in the playful pizzicato ‘Serenade’. Kate Wakeling