Carwithen, Jacob, Williamson

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Carwithen,Jacob,Williamson
LABELS: Somm
WORKS: Jacob: Piano Concerto No. 1; Williamson: Piano Concerto No. 2; Carwithen: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington (piano); Innovation Chamber Ensemble/Richard Jenkinson
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 254

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Heroically built piano concertos were not, in general, the 20th century’s speciality, certainly not in England, where all this disc’s pieces for piano and strings originated. Typically, Gordon Jacob’s compact Concerto No. 1 of 1927 starts us off with a tinkle, a crash, neo-classical fingerwork, and a sprinkling of slightly crunched harmonies that wouldn’t harm a fly. In its first recording, British devotee Mark Bebbington tackles the piece with expected relish, firmly supported by Richard Jenkinson and his players from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, grouped together as the Innovation Chamber Ensemble.

Malcolm Williamson’s Second Concerto (1960) offers more pleasures still as it swings unblushing between secular syncopations and a central movement well described by the composer as ‘plainchantesque’. The work’s sparkle is just slightly reduced by the recording’s general piano tone, slightly muffled and distant.

The romantic, the pastoral and the angular uneasily hold hands in Doreen Carwithen’s Concerto from the late 1940s, the most substantial piece here at 33 minutes. The central lento, pensive in tone, sparsely textured, and most delicately dispatched, is something to cherish. However, neither Bebbington nor the orchestra can make a strong case for the surrounding movements – foggy creations full of big gestures but short of individual personality.

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Geoff Brown