Strange to think that Gershwin’s Concerto in F was published posthumously, the only recording available for many years being a cut version made by Ferde Grofé for the Paul Whiteman Band. Mark Bebbington’s new disc feels like an attempt to reassert the concerto’s academic respectability. Tempi are on the expansive side, and conductor Leon Botstein secures sumptuous playing from the Royal Philharmonic. It all sounds glorious.
The hugely accomplished and valiant Mark Bebbington who has unmatched credentials in this field flew at the virtuoso demands of each work with as much precise abandon as there was poetry in his fingers for the more reflective moments. The playing of the Initium Ensemble (strings from the CBSO) under the full-on conducting of Richard Jenkinson was brilliant, muscular and affecting. Each of the slow movements and many episodes in the flanking movements of these three concertos yielded and met the most poetic and touching fragile playing.
Mark Bebbington is fast becoming the Iris Loveridge de nos jours with his championship of neglected British piano music. A well-judged piano-and-orchestra balance and a lovely warm depth to the strings.
“The previous first volume of Mark Bebbington’s complete Bliss survey was a quality release in every way. Once again, his playing here does impressive justice to a keyboard idiom which needs top-notch performance if it isn’t to risk sounding over-conventional. Bebbington never merely relies on his professional fluency, superlative though this is; on the contrary, every phrase in the music is delivered with an incisive clarity that takes nothing for granted.”
Bebbington’s playing is immaculately clear and accomplished at every point.