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Richard Rodney Bennett

Publisher: Novello & Co

Songs before Sleep (2002)
commissioned jointly by BBC Radio 3 and the Royal Philharmonic Society as part of the New Generation artists scheme.
Work Notes
1. The Mouse and the Bumblebee 2. Wee Willie Winkie 3. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star 4. Baby, baby, naughty boy 5. As I walked by Myself 6. There was an old lady (orchestral version also available)
Text Writer
trad., William Miller, Jane Taylor
Novello & Co Ltd
Solo Voices and 1-6 players
Year Composed
17 Minutes
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Programme Note
Richard Rodney Bennett Songs before Sleep (2002)
The texts for the work were taken from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. I am very grateful to my sister, Meg Peacocke, for the idea, for the title and for clarifying many of the texts.

Score sample

Or go to the bass-baritone version.

  • Soloist(s)
    Jonathan Lemalu bass-baritone, Malcolm Martineau piano, Belcea Quartet
  • Ensemble
    Philharmonia Orchestra
    Jonathan Lemalu (baritone), Paul watkins (cello)
    Richard Hickox
  • Soloist(s)
    Sophie Daneman, soprano; Susan Bickley, mezzo soprano; Benjamin Hulett, tenor; Roderick Williams, baritone; Oliver Coates, cello; Iain Burnside, piano
[Iain] Burnside accompanied the bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu in Bennett’s 2002 Songs before sleep: six nursey rhymes, grave and gay – and sometimes, with their dark gashes of violence, so politically incorrect that the audience could only chuckle with embarrassed laughter. Bennett, Burnside and Lemalu, though, were fearless in their responses.
Hilary Finch, The Times,30/03/2006
...a substantial world premiere: fabulous settings of six nursery rhymes - Songs Before Sleep - delivered by the scoreless and wonderfully convincing Jonathan Lemalu. A real treat.
Annette Morreau, Independent,26/06/2003
(Bennett) is a wonderfully natural lyric composer. His Songs Before Sleep were written for the rapidly rising Jonathan Lemalu, and these six settings with piano of texts from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes fit the young baritone's easy, honeyed voice like a glove … The highlight was his version of the full text of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, conceived as an exquisite, dreamy ballad, which Lemalu floated magically.
Andrew Clements, Guardian,24/06/2003
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