Music by Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981)

Robert Russell Bennett Edited by Paul Mack Somers & Janet Somers

 

Score and Part(s)

Performing Ensemble: Clarinet Quartet
Instrumentation: 4 B-Flat Clarinets
Number of Pages: 72
Duration: :13:50
Publisher: Maurice River Press
Print Status: In Print

Clarinet Quartet (1941) received its premiere on one of the “Russell Bennett's Notebook” programs on WOR. Again, the performers were drawn from the staff musicians. It is a three-movement work which is clearly influenced by elements of American popular music, particularly big-band swing, but nevertheless keeps itself well within the “classical” camp. It is light in mood, reflecting a sense of isolation, if not isolationism, which was prevalent in America during the years immediately before the USA's entrance into World War II. Even the final march is for toy soldiers, not the real ones already at war in Europe and Asia. But lifted out of its historical context, it is a delightful piece which requires excellent performers. It is filled with close harmonies and has many technical passages which challenge each of the four players. Bennett's evocation of fife and drum in the final march is both inventive and witty, a description which fits the entire work.
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Water Music (1937) was first performed on “Russell Bennett's Notebook”, a weekly radio program on New York City's WOR. The station had its own small orchestra and staff musicians, who also performed on other shows. The quartet players for the 20 April, 1941, broadcast were drawn from this ensemble. The first concert performance was by the Walden Quartet (members of the Cleveland Orchestra) in 1945 at the Festival of Contemporary Music at Columbia University in New York. Bennett said that he wrote it one day when he “stayed home from a ball game.” The music is based on the famous “Sailors' Hornpipe”, but soon becomes a witty and quite useful compendium of modernist techniques, though omitting 12-tone. Not very far into the piece, for example, Bennett puts each player in a different key. Elliott Carter remarked that the piece was “cutely clever.”received its premiere on one of the “Russell Bennett's Notebook” programs on WOR. Again, the performers were drawn from the staff musicians. It is a three-movement work which is clearly influenced by elements of American popular music, particularly big-band swing, but nevertheless keeps itself well within the “classical” camp. It is light in mood, reflecting a sense of isolation, if not isolationism, which was prevalent in America during the years immediately before the USA's entrance into World War II. Even the final march is for toy soldiers, not the real ones already at war in Europe and Asia. But lifted out of its historical context, it is a delightful piece which requires excellent performers. It is filled with close harmonies and has many technical passages which challenge each of the four players. Bennett's evocation of fife and drum in the final march is both inventive and witty, a description which fits the entire work.
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Six Souvenirs for Two Flutes and One Piano were written in 1948 for, and premiered by John Wummer (1899-1977) and his wife Mildred Hunt Wummer with Bennett at the piano at Chamber Music Hall, City Center, New York. In it he honors his ute-playing friends, who just happened to be some of the most distinguished utists of the twentieth century: Brown Shoehheit, Georges Barrére, Harry V. Baxter, William "Billy" Kincaid, Quinto Maganini, Lamar Stringfield, Verne Q. Powell, Edward V. Powell

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Recorded Music by Robert Russell Bennett

 

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