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William Sterndale Bennett

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Sextet in f# minor, Op.8 for

Piano, 2 Violins, Viola Cello & Bass or 2 Cellos

 

I think him the most promising young musician I know, wrote Felix Mendelssohn in 1836 after hearing Bennett perform one of his own piano concertos during a concert tour of Germany.

 

William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875) was born in English city of Sheffield, the son of an organist. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He met and befriended Mendelssohn, who first heard him perform in London when Bennett was 17. His piano technique was such that during concert tours in Germany, he quickly gained the reputation as one of the finest pianists in Europe. Robert Schumann praised his playing and musicality quite highly. Bennett settled in London, devoting himself chiefly to teaching, eventually becoming a Professor of Music at Cambridge University. He also served as chief conductor of the London Philharmonic and later as Director of the Royal Academy of Music. Owing to his professional duties, his latter years were not creatively fertile, and what he then wrote was scarcely equal to the productions of his youth. The principal charm of Bennett's compositions (not to mention his absolute mastery of the musical form) consists in the tenderness of their conception, rising occasionally to the sweetest lyrical intensity. Except for opera, Bennett tried his hand at almost all the different forms of vocal and instrumental writing.

 

The Sextet was completed in 1838 after a lengthy visit to Germany and much time spent with his friend Mendelssohn, then generally considered Europe's greatest living composer. It is hardly surprising that Mendelssohn's influence can clearly be heard in the music, though, of course, the treatment is original and the ideas are fresh. The big opening Allegro moderato ma con passione begins with a sad theme introduced by the first violin. After a brief interlude with the strings, the piano develops it further before the strings join in again to finish the development against a sparkling accompaniment part in the piano. Felix could not have done better. The second theme is also lyrical and quite fetching. The second movement, Scherzo, quasi presto, has a questioning subject for its main theme, given out by the strings, the piano answers. The second theme, given out by the strings, briefly interrupts the proceedings. The gorgeous trio section is entrusted almost entirely to the strings. It presents a fine contrast. The finale, Allegro assai ed energico, has a very Mendelssohnian melody for its main theme. It is first given out by the piano. It becomes even more luscious when the strings join in. Captivating and exciting, the music rushes along with great energy to its exciting close.

 

How many good piano sextets are about? Not many, but this is one. (Another which comes to mind is the Glinka which we also publish). So if you are planning an evening with the Mendelssohn Piano Sextet, the Bennett should definitely be on your list so you can make a night of it. We have reprinted the 160 year old first and only edition. It was an extremely clean copy and in excellent condition although it lacked rehearsal numbers and had a few errors. We have added rehearsal numbers and corrected the errors. Bennett also produced an alternative second cello part for the bass.

 

(A) Piano, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass-Parts $44.95
(B) Piano 2 Violins, Viola & 2  Cello -Parts $44.95
(C) All Seven Parts $49.95

 

 

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