Pianistic Brilliance from Mark Bebbington

November 20, 2012

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Ireland, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt: Mark Bebbington (piano), Stover School, Newton Abbot, UK, 18.11.2012 (PRB)

Ireland: London Pieces
Chopin
: Sonata for Piano No 3 in B minor, Op 58
Debussy
: Five Preludes from 24 Preludes (Books 1 & 2)
Liszt
: Liebestod – Piano Transcription (Tristan und Isolde – Wagner)
Rigoletto – Paraphrase (Verdi)

Mark Bebbington (photo credit: Rama Knight)

British composer John Ireland died fifty years ago and, with the help of continuing sponsorship by The Ireland Trust and often additional local support, this year has seen a plethora of events countrywide to commemorate this.

This was indeed the case at an afternoon recital in the glorious surroundings of Stover School, a private day and boarding establishment in rural Devon, just outside the market town of Newton Abbot. Many such similarly-sized places throughout the UK often have thriving arts and cultural association which bring leading artists to these essentially ‘remoter’ areas, thus avoiding the need for audiences to have to travel to the next largest town, or indeed city. On this occasion the recital was under the auspices of Newton Abbot and District Society of Arts, which organises a series of varied concerts each season.

Pianist Mark Bebbington has almost single-handedly championed the work of twentieth-century British piano music, so his decision to open his recital with Ireland’s three London Pieces, came as no surprise.

The first two were written in 1917, the third in 1920, and each one sets out to evoke the contemporary London Ireland so loved. From the graceful broad flow of the River Thames in Chelsea Reach, the cheeky swagger of Ragamuffin, and the lively street life depicted in Soho Forenoons, Bebbington’s studied performance captured each picture to perfection, while so meticulously attending to every nuance in the writing.

Chopin’s third and final Piano Sonata in B minor is a veritable tour de force, and the composer’s largest work for solo piano. Here Bebbington seemed most at home in the lyrical moments, and especially in the slow movement, where he elicited a fine cantabile from the medium-sized grand piano. While the Scherzo was despatched with alacrity and panache, in the galloping Finale some of the passage-work seemed less-clean in delivery. Here, though, the extremely resonant acoustic, and possibly some spurious echoes from the geometrically-shaped roof might have contributed, and this was, after all, a school instrument and used daily, no doubt.

Bebbington opened the second half with his own selection of five Préludes from Debussy’s set of twenty-four. There was splendour and mysticism in La cathédrale engloutie, with some finely shaped-climaxes, though to which a full-sized concert-instrument might have added greater sonority at the bass end. Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest was suitably blustery and tempestuous, while Bebbington mustered as much cohesion as possible into his reading of the strangely-fragmented La sérénade interrompue. There was suitably light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek humour in Général Lavine – eccentric, and a dazzling display of musical pyrotechnics in Feux d’artifice.

One of the programme’s undoubted highlights came in the form of Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. Again, while the added resonance of a larger piano would have benefitted the performance, Bebbington skilfully managed the available resources so that the final, almost orgasmic climax demanded as much as the instrument could safely offer, but without compromising tonal nicety to any significant degree.

There was a little surprise in store for the companion piece – Liszt’s better-known Rigoletto Paraphrase, from Verdi’s eponymous opera. Bebbington had added an extra couple of cadential chords at the close, feeling, as he later said, that Liszt’s original ending just fell a tad short, after all the virtuosity and flamboyance that had gone before.

A generous encore of Granados’ Andaluza delighted the large and enthusiastic audience.

 

Philip R Buttall

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

favorite-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 8th Schloss Laudon Kammermusikfestival to Illuminate More Corners of the 20th Century Quartet Repertoire (January 20, 2015) __________________________________
  •  NEW! Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season 2014/15 Continues: Romance And Revolution: Andrea Chénier (January 17, 2015) __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview: Resolution! Dance Showcase at the Place, London (January 11, 2015) __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview: London International Mime Festival January 2015 (January 8, 2015) __________________________________
  • NEW! ‘Bayreuth in Buenos Aires’ And More in Interesting Teatro Colón 2015 Season (January 4, 2015) __________________________________
  • Buenos Aires Independents’ 2015 Season – Some Gems To Come (November 25, 2014) __________________________________
  • Artists from China, Estonia and Holland head for 2015 Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music (November 19, 2014) __________________________________
  • Lucerne Festival Preview 2015 (November 6, 2014) __________________________________
  • Variety and Distinction in Vancouver’s 2014-2015 Concert Season (August 10, 2014) __________________________________
  • Cincinnati Offers Sparkling 2014-2015 Season (August 7, 2014) __________________________________
  • Exciting and Varied Programme Announced for Birmingham International Concert Series 2014/15 (May 19, 2014) __________________________________
  • Reviews by Reviewer

    Monthly Archive

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Beat Furrer and Grigory Sokolov Named Latest Honorary Members of the Wiener Konzerthaus Society (December 18, 2014) __________________________________
  • Dame Fanny Waterman to Step Down from Leeds International Piano Competition after 2015 Competition (December 16, 2014) __________________________________
  • Nine First-Time Winners Revealed at the British Composer Awards 2014 (December 11, 2014) __________________________________
  • Dancers in the Making. John O’Dwyer Visits the English National Ballet School (December 10, 2014) __________________________________
  • Arnaldo Cohen in Conversation with Geoffrey Newman (December 9, 2014) __________________________________
  • National Centre for Early Music Announces Its Young Composers Award 2015 (November 2, 2014) __________________________________
  • Concertmaster Dale Barltrop in Conversation with Geoffrey Newman (October 22, 2014) __________________________________
  • Remembering Lyndon Jenkins (1938-2014): A Leading Player on the Concert Scene (September 26, 2014) __________________________________
  • Essex Based Opera Group Brings Opera to Saffron Hall In Walden for the First Time (August 26, 2014) __________________________________
  • Top 10 Reviewed Cities