A Bush¥Elgar

COMPOSERS: A Bush,Elgar
LABELS: Somm
ALBUM TITLE: A Bush,Elgar
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 2Symphony No. 1 (arr. Karg-Elert)
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 069
The instant popularity of Elgar’s First Symphony led his publishers to ask Sigfrid Karg-Elert, best-known today for his organ works, to write a piano reduction for domestic use. One wonders how many amateur pianists would have mastered it, for Karg-Elert produced a virtuoso recasting that needs a Liszt to play it. Mark Bebbington gives it his best shot with revealing and often thrilling results. In the finale Karg-Elert’s attempt to encompass Elgar’s scoring does rather overstretch the capability of two hands, but the slow movement is surprisingly effective and is played by Bebbington with rare sensitivity.

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The enterprising coupling is the debut recording of Alan Bush’s early Piano Sonata in B minor, written in 1921 when he was a student at the Royal Academy of Music (Bebbington gave its first modern performance last year). It has more than key in common with Liszt’s Sonata, being a powerfully concentrated one-movement design with the contrapuntal intricacy of mature Bush but also an aspiring romanticism in the lyrical second subject. Recorded in Symphony Hall Birmingham, the piano sound has admirable warmth and depth.

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Calum MacDonald