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Richard Rodney Bennett

Publisher: Novello & Co

Anniversaries (1982)
commissioned by the BBC to celebrate the 60th anniversary of both the BBC and the composer Irwin Bazelon
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
17 Minutes
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Programme Note
Richard Rodney Bennett Anniversaries (1982)
This work was completed in New York City in May 1982. It was commissioned by the BBC to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary, and is dedicated to the American composer Irwin Bazelon in celebration of his sixtieth birthday - hence the title. It is a brilliant, extravert work for full orchestra, consisting of eleven sections, the odd-numbered sections using the full orchestra and those with even numbers featuring the various orchestral 'families'.

In a sense the work is a theme and variations, since the melodic and harmonic material is entirely derived from the opening three-note group, G E D. This group has a strong tonal character which colours the entire work. (I have used the same musical starting point in two other works, Aubade for orchestra of 1962, my first Prom commission, and the Five Studies for piano of 1962-4. The three works, however, are very widely contrasted in character.)

The idea of an anniversary is present in the work in terms of groups of material, which recur from time to time, being always altered and generally made more complex on their return. Otherwise the title only colours the work in a very general sense.

The opening fanfare-like section presents the basic material and is followed by a relatively simple variation which presents the thematic material is a slightly different light.

The first episode (Leggiero e fantastico) features the woodwind, whirling against a cloudy background of strings, harp and piano. This is followed by a violent scherzo (Con fuoco) which uses the full orchestra.

A sustained piano chord in the lowest register leads to the second episode (Drammatico), scored for tuned percussion, harp and piano. This, the fourth of eleven sections, acts as a bridge from the lively opening sections to the more expansive central part of the work.

A slow Arioso for the orchestra is followed by an impassioned episode for strings and the central section of the work concludes with a slow coda (Tranquillo), characterised by the solos for flute and oboe and by chorale-like passages for the brass.

The bridge to the last section again features percussion, but this time it is the untuned instruments of the section, plus timpani.

In the last part of the work, musical material starts to recur. First there is a section Brillante in which the con fuoco scherzo and the leggiero e fantastico woodwind episode return in varied forms.

The fifth and last episode (Strepitoso) features the brass of the orchestra and uses some rhythmic material from the second percussion interlude. This leads to a much elaborated reprise of the opening.

Anniversaires (1982) ended the evening with Bennett's crowd-pleasing public face. Splendidly vivacious and unashamedly extrovert, it functioned as a glittering concerto for orchestra as well as themes and variations, since the opening fanfare fuelled the rest of the work's boundless energies. Doubtless, it was programmed to send the audience away with a touch of festive pizzazz...
Paul Conway, Tempo,01/01/2007
Anniversaries for a large orchestra whose various sections are spotlighted in turn, had an irresistable gusto.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,16/04/2006
Anniversaries finished off the evening. That is a real show-off piece, a kind of concerto for orchestra, spotlighting smaller instrumental groupings in interludes between variations, swept up in a surge of vivid orchestration. The pace and brilliance kept everyone alert…
Robert Maycock, The Independent,11/04/2006
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