COMPOSERS: Sir Arthur Bliss
LABELS: Symphony Hall
ALBUM TITLE: The Complete Piano Music of Sir Arthur Bliss
WORKS: Masks; Two Interludes; Suite for Piano; Bliss; The Rout Trot; Triptych etc
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 0148
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 of the music is delivered with an incisive clarity that takes nothing for granted.
As with any exercise in completism, the quality of the individual works varies. The early Suite for Piano is still pretty much embalmed in the Edwardian era, while short numbers like The Rout Trot and ‘Bliss’ (A One-Step) have a self-conscious 1920s manner that hasn’t worn too well. There are also far more individual statements like the four-movement Masks – as in ‘A Romantic Mask’, with its Scriabin-like flights of impulsive imagination, and the brittle unease of ‘A Sinister Mask’.
Even more striking are the three substantial movements of the Triptych of 1970 – one of Bliss’s last works, whose leaner manner still allows the composer’s mastery of piano sonority to shine through. Malcolm Hayes