“Mark Bebbington's 85th-birthday tribute to the late Sir Malcolm Arnold starts with his first substantial piano composition, the Piano Sonata in B minor from 1942. After a concise opening movement, a wistful Andante con moto leads without a break into the Alla marcia finale, whose element of ironic burlesque suggests an acquaintance with Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The Piano Pieces, completed the following year, already possess that bittersweet tang characteristic of the composer. However, the meatiest Arnold offering here is the absorbing 1944 Variations on a UkrainianFolksong. Bebbington is a splendidly intrepidly communicative and an unruffled advocate. He also benefits from a superbly rounded, firmly focused sound-picture. Bebbington proves equally at home in the music of Constant Lambert. His interpretation of the magnificent 1929 Sonata that bridges the gap between The Rio Grande (1927) and the Piano Concerto (1930-31) has all the stylish aplomb, improvisatory freedom and infectious swagger one could wish for, yet with a touch more introspection and poignancy in the bluesy slow movement than either Ian Brown or John McCabe locate. The finale hurtles menacingly towards its grim apotheosis, after which the skies darken further still for the inconsolable Elegy that Lambert wrote in 1938. The three movement Suite from 1925 is full of daring, ear-tickling invention (sample the hallucinatory opening Andante) and a striking achievement for someone barely out of their teens. The sweetly touching Elegiac Blues of 1927 (written within days of the news of the early death of singer Florence Mills) rounds off another high-class collection from this intelligent and tasteful performer.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.