5***** review from the Birmingham Post

“Bebbington brought deft, fiery fingerwork to this committed reading”

“Throughout a long and proud history I doubt Bromsgrove Concerts have presented many events more exciting than last Friday’s, when Mark Bebbington (actually a local, Hagley-based, but now at the forefront of the international stage) played three important English piano works of very recent times.

Hearteningly, these pieces by two senior composers – Robert Matthew-Walker and Sir Arthur Bliss – proved that it is still possible to write music rooted in tonality and strong rhythmic values, instead of bringing out the obfuscation of emperor’s new clothes such as we are induced to admire so often.

I don’t know how Matthew-Walker finds time to compose, busy as he is editing two magazines, writing books, reviewing concerts, CDs and books; he tells me he does it all in his head, such as in supermarket queues, and writes it down when he can.

Whatever his methodology, he produces music of great engagement. His Hamler Fantasy-Sonata is a major contribution to British piano literature, natural in the organic growth of its five interlinked sections, searching in its exploration of the piano, now stellar, now gruff, now eerily exploring overtones. Certainly it has resonances of the repertoire’s back-catalogue: its opening evoked the Liszt Sonata, and I heard homages to Satie, Messiaen and Tippett. And this places the work firmly in the heritage of great piano literature.

Bebbington brought deft, fiery fingerwork to this committed reading, following it with a totally different approach for the premiere of Matthew-Walker’s A Bad Night in Los Angeles. Here a funky bass, full chordings and bluesy rhythms drew a crisp, Hollywood-style panache (such glissandi!) from the pianist. The piece was written for him, and he will surely include it in his permanent portfolio.

Bliss’ late Triptych is sterner stuff (Bebbington sees it as an anti-war statement), and is fluent and quietly lofty in its controlled anger, to which the pianist responded with subtle power and a persuasive sense of growth in the finale.

Schubert’s early A major Sonata and Beethoven’s Appassionaata framed this enthralling evening, Bebbington delivering them in an engaging improvisatory style, the one quietly communing, the other railing against a world destructive of ideas.”

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post, Feb 2017