This 4th collection of new, unfamiliar concertante music recorded by the adventurous and superlative pianist, Mark Bebbington, for Somm, is as outstanding as the previous volumes. And what a delightful disc this one is! It is so refreshing to hear new or unfamiliar repertoire - especially when performed with such involvement, polish, verve and enjoyment. The recording is very good, without quite being excellent. The piano is very realistic and the strings have superb presence and articulation. But there is a bit of grain to the sustained string tone which is a bit bothersome and surprisingly rare in a modern digital recording. But don't let that little quibble discourage anyone from obtaining this disc. The music is fantastic as are the performances.
I found it interesting that the 3 concertos are played in an order on this program which progresses from the more light-hearted/delightful (Jacob) to the most serious (Carwithen), with the Williamson (JUST right!) in between. Bebbington is a fantastic pianist who believes completely in these pieces, and he is accompanied brilliantly by Jenkinson.
Each of Bebbington's recordings utilize different orchestras and conductors. Only the one with the Ulster Orchestra (under George Vass) is less than exceptional. I have long held the view that the conductor (and orchestra) are just as important as the soloist in concertante music. Fortunately, for this disc, Bebbington has been partnered with the perfect conductor in Richard Jenkinson, the results being arguably the most successful of the 4 discs. All in the series are extremely rewarding - and this one, in particular, is in every way sensational.
I recently listened to Bebbington's latest offering, music of George Gershwin, and found it a great disappointment. I also recently encountered his much earlier (2007) disc of Mozart Concertos. That one was equally disappointing but for different reasons. Whereas the Gershwin has serious musical interpretation issues and sloppy playing, the Mozart suffers from disastrous tuning issue between the orchestra and piano. Therefore I conclude Bebbington should continue concentrating on rare and unfamiliar repertoire and leave alone the over-recorded stuff (where competition is extraordinary) until such time as a solid, reliable and musically rewarding relationship is established with a conductor/orchestra. Then tackle Mozart, et al.