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Ferguson, Finzi, Austin, Rawsthorne: Piano Concertos / Bebbington

Ferguson / Bebbington
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  Somm   Catalog #: 241  
Composer:  Howard FergusonGerald FinziFrederic AustinAlan Rawsthorne
Performer:  Mark Bebbington
Conductor:  Howard Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Bebbington is a major talent and one to be cherished. He is one of those pianists who can transcend the essentially percussive nature of the instrument. This quality stands him in good stead in much of the English repertoire and especially in Ireland and Bridge.

The 25 minute Ferguson concerto is here recorded for its third time. The earlier issues were for EMI Classics (Howard Shelley) and then for Naxos (Peter Donohoe). No one matches this coupling. Bebbington brings his deep satin to music that variously recalls his good friend Gerald Finzi and a figure I had not looked to hear as an influence: Miaskovsky. It's strange how strong the string writing resembles the Russian in such works as his Sinfonietta and
Read more Serenade. There's a delight unchained too in the chiming and skipping Allegro giovale. Its exuberance, recalls the best of the Russian divertimento concertos such as those by Kabalevsky and Shostakovich.

Bebbington's touch, caught between silence and sound, is ideal for the calming numbers of Finzi's Eclogue which I am delighted to say has the centred quality and confidence to find an unhurried rate of unfurling. What's more the strings are ample in tone.

Frederick Austin has seen a little renaissance on record, I am pleased to say. This Piano Concertino runs to no more than 13 minutes and three compact movements. Commissioned for some now unknown film by Ernest Irving for Ealing Studios, it survived only as a piano score. David Ellis furnished the orchestration. It is an interesting piece of romantica from around 1944. More power to Martin Lee-Browne who has done so much for the re-launch of Austin's music. This is not a scorchingly passionate score; rather it is lyrical and nostalgic in a way recalling Rachmaninov. It also rises to moments of grandeur. Bebbington relishes every twist and turn. He must have enjoyed the occasional similarities with the John Ireland style in the finale.

After three romantic scores the Rawsthorne has more vituperation and vinegar. The spitfire Capriccio is in constant furious motion. The edginess is accentuated by the comparative asceticism of the string orchestra and percussion even if the xylophone does play the gaunt clown's skull. Even as early as the 1930s the quasi-fugal second subject is pure Rawsthorne at 3:30 in I. The central Chaconne is affecting but not what you would call very emotional. In fact while there is a degree of merriment it is all pretty dry-eyed. This is a comment on the music not a demerit in the playing. This is a first recording for the Rawsthorne in its original orchestral garb. Well worth encountering. It proves, if proof were needful, that Bebbington can also be completely at ease with more objective, witty, brittle and pianola-bright writing.

A stimulating collection - not short on fascination. I am looking forward to Somm's impending release which will include the Ireland concerto and Bax's Concertino.



-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 12 by Howard Ferguson
Performer:  Mark Bebbington (Piano)
Conductor:  Howard Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950-1951 
2.
Eclogue for Piano and Strings in F major, Op. 10 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Mark Bebbington (Piano)
Conductor:  Howard Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920s; England 
3.
Concertino for Piano in G minor by Frederic Austin
Performer:  Mark Bebbington (Piano)
Conductor:  Howard Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 1 by Alan Rawsthorne
Performer:  Mark Bebbington (Piano)
Conductor:  Howard Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; England 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto, Op. 12: I. Allegro
Piano Concerto, Op. 12: II. Theme and Variations
Piano Concerto, Op. 12: III. Allegro gioviale
Eclogue, Op. 10
Concertino in G minor (arr. D. Ellis for piano and orchestra): I. Allegro non troppo
Concertino in G minor (arr. D. Ellis for piano and orchestra): II. Andante lamentoso
Concertino in G minor (arr. D. Ellis for piano and orchestra): III. Allegro vivo
Piano Concerto No. 1: I. Capriccio: Allegro molto - Presto
Piano Concerto No. 1: II. Chaconne: Andante con moto
Piano Concerto No. 1: III. Tarantella: Vivace

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