Updated: Nov 3
This amazing and beautful concert took place on Friday, 20 October 2023, 7.30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall; we were treated to an evening of calm, finess, peace, calm, tranquility and amazing tonality as the concert hall resonates the beautiful sounds of SSO in Tchaikovsky 4.
Robert Russell Bennett (1894 – 1981) is the American composer and arranger best known forinventing the Broadway sound, credited for orchestrating the musicals of such famous composers as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers. His violin concerto, a rarely heard work from 1941, shows its roots in film and stage with expressive drama. Join British violinist Chloë Hanslip and American maestro Andrew Litton as they present this underrated gem, with Tchaikovsky’s tumultuous symphonic masterpiece, the Fourth Symphony in the second half.
Robert Russell Bennett belongs to that class of composers who elevated the melodies of his colleagues to their fullest form. As one of America's leading arrangers, he was responsible for scoring and orchestrating the scores of nearly a hundred musicals.
From the 1920s to the 1970s, the list of composers and scores Bennett worked with is the very definition of the American Broadway sound - Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Frederick Loewe... The Sound of Music, Show Boat, Kiss Me, Kate, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Victory At Sea and so on.
"I give (Bennett the credit) without undue modesty, for making my music sound better than it was."- Richard Rogers
Bennett was born in 1894, the year when Brahms was 61, Mahler completed his Symphony No. 2 and Debussy's Prélude l'après-midi d'un faune was premiered in Paris. His father George was a violinist at the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and trumpeter at the Grand Opera House, while his mother May worked as a pianist and
teacher. His musical talent was discovered from an early age - he was frequently called upon by his father to fill in any instrumental role in his band. His talent for melodic and harmonic structure served him well as an orchestrator - he was known to write out parts directly in ink, and in score order.
Besides his work on Broadway, Bennett's prolific output as a "serious" composer is perhaps even more astounding. More than seven symphonies, concertos for violin, viola, harp, piano, harmonica; operas, incidental music for ballet and theatre, a large oeuvre of chamber music and many more for wind band.
The Violin Concerto in A major from 1941 is a four-movement work. A light-hearted jaunt through a lively Broadway streetscape with occasional skyscraping solos, the opening Allegro moderato is the longest, taking up more than a third of the concerto's 23-minute duration. The Andante moderato is a sentimental nocturne with the violin yearning in song, set against a moonlit orchestral backdrop. A moment of drama interrupts this reverie as the soloist perks up for a side of cheekiness, before gradually slipping into the gentle night.
A frantic and capricious Vivace serves as a brief showcase before the raucous finale, a colourful Allegro marziale ("martial") of a parade. Various themes from the earlier movements, the jolly and the nostalgic, make a brief reappearance before the curtain-closing coda.
Bennett wrote his Violin Concerto for the American violinist Louis Kaufmann (1905-
1994). Aside from the fact that he played frequently with legendary contemporaries from Casals to Heifetz, Kaufmann also made a name for himself playing in the soundtracks of Hollywood films, including such classics as Casablanca and Gone with the Wind. As a classical violinist, he premiered the works of Copland, Milhaud and starred in the premiere recordings of the Barber and Bennett violin concertos.
The latter, a live radio recording from 1956 conducted by Bernard Herrmann and the London Symphony, is the only existing recording of this concerto.
Tonight's performance by violinist Chloë Hanslip, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andrew Litton is presented in conjunction with our recording sessions.
The Bennett Violin Concerto will be recorded for the first time with modern equipment in a studio setting. This will be released in an album paired with the Violin Concerto by Vernon Duke, being performed by the same artists in concert on 27 Oct 2023
Robert Russell Bennett - Instrumentation Set
2 flutes (1 doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes (1 doubling on cor anglais), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tambourine, snare drum, suspended cymba, bass drum, cymbals, xylophone, vibraphone, harp, strings
Concert Title: Bennett Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky 4
Date & Time: Friday, 20 October 2023, 7.30pm
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Performers: Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor
Chloë Hanslip, violin*
Programme: ROBERT RUSSELL BENNETT
Violin Concerto in A major*
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36