Finally – and from another emerging young pianist, Hiroaki Takenouchi – comes a recent CD of music by the 19th-century English composer, William Sterndale Bennett – a figure undergoing a modest (and much overdue) revival and reappraisal. Sterndale Bennett is often seen as the English Schumann or Mendelssohn. In fact, he visited Leipzig in 1836 (at the age of 20) meeting Mendelssohn and working on an F minor Piano Sonata, which he gave as a wedding present to the illustrious composer. He later met Schumann, and was greatly influenced by the lyrical, sometimes stormy romanticism of that musical era.
In Hiroaki Takenouchi’s hands, we see Sterndale Bennett – not as an imitator of the Germanic music of the time, but as a fully-fledged virtuoso and musical inheritor in his own right; changing our preconceptions of early to mid-19th-century England as the “land without music”. The recording on the Artalinna label couples the composer’s impressive four-movement sonata with Schumann’s Theme and Twelve Etudes in the Form of Variations, “Symphonic Etudes” – again, brilliantly played by Takenouchi in the pleasing acoustic of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Oxford.