Clifford Benson – Piano Works

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Benson
Six Pieces
Variations on Frère Jacques
Three Pieces
Mozart Goes to Town *
Réflexions
Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Michael Dussek & *John Reid (piano)

Recorded March 2007 in Potton Hall, Suffolk, England


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: June 2008
CD No: LANDOR RECORDS
LAN283
Duration: 48 minutes

 

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This is both a moving and an inspiring release. (Musically likeable, too.) Moving because Clifford Benson (1946-2007) died relatively young (from an inoperable brain tumour) – and thus we lost a versatile pianist – and inspiring because he was able to live long enough to be at the sessions when Michael Dussek made this recording of his music. It should have been the composer himself at the piano; but his health declined significantly – enough for him to cancel engagements and invite Dussek to take over the recording (with not long to go until the date). Dilys Benson goes into further detail in her booklet note.

Like many other music-lovers and record-collectors, I was very familiar with Clifford Benson’s name and his playing. That he was a composer, too, was a rather more ‘hidden’ talent. His music is entertaining and enjoyable, blessed with tunes and ingenious harmony; the listener can appreciate Benson’s craft and take pleasure from his musical wit and insouciance – it is never trite and will suit many moods and times of day.

Michael Dussek, who was “the recipient of Clifford’s demanding yet encouraging tuition”, makes light of the “often tricky” writing and plays with affection. 40 tracks, to cue each work (and each Variation), for a disc totalling 48 minutes’ playing-time gives an indication of the brevity of the pieces. But they are just right in proportion and enjoy Benson’s creative imagination, which includes allusions to other music and a gift for subtle pastiche. In short, this is a pleasing collection.

For Mozart Goes to Town (piano/four hands) Dussek is joined by John Reid – the town appears to be close to Mexico, the 6-minute piece quoting several of Mozart’s ‘hits’ (as well as “Puppet on a String”!) – such introductions are humorous and skilful. The longest work – Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – is a compendium of other composers’ styles.

Clifford Benson was able to attend the sessions and there was amongst friends (including producer Jeremy Hayes and engineer Tony Faulkner). Let Mr Benson have the last word: “I think it’s a bloody good CD!”.

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