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Richard Rodney Bennett

Publisher: Novello & Co

Actaeon (Metamorphosis I) (1977)
Novello & Co Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Richard Rodney Bennett Actaeon (Metamorphosis I) (1977)
Actaeon, perhaps best described as a tone-poem for horn and symphony orchestra, is just as recognisably a concerto in the classical tradition as are those works specifically entitled concertos which Bennett has already written for piano, guitar, oboe, viola and violin with orchestras of various sizes. Nevertheless the musico-dramatic design of Actaeon gives it as much in common with his series of chamber music works called Commedias, in which groups of solo instruments are allotted quasi-theatrical roles.

The scenario of the piece is based on one of the many legends in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Actaeon, famed as a huntsman, came by chance to a pool in the woods where the goddess Artemis was bathing; offended at his intrusion (according to mythology, any human who looks uninvited upon a deity risks terrible reprisal) she decides to punish him by inflicting the hunter with the physical shape of the hunted and, sprinkling him with water, she turns him into a stag - whereupon, deprived of the power of speech and unable to identify himself, he is hunted down and killed by his own hounds.

Actaeon (1976-7) was written at the request of Barry Tuckwell, to whom it is dedicated, and whose virtuosity inspired its expressive use of unusual horn techniques. However, although there is a story behind the music, Actaeon is neither a narrative evocation of that story nor yet a series of pictorial images, but simply its musical transformation. Played without a break, the work has three main sections - Allegro ritmico., Pastorale and Presto - set within the frame of an opening and a closing Adagio, and interrupted by an extended cadenza.

Sheila Rainey

The 1977 horn concerto, Actaeon, was a dazzling instance of his athletic early style that gave continental modernism a British, distantly Waltonian flavour.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,16/04/2006
Actaeon, a one-movement horn concerto in all but name, wittily gave trombones the hunt-type figures while the horn skipped around them, integrating extended techniques into a fluent virtuoso line.
Robert Maycock, The Independent,11/04/2006
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