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Concertos for Piano & Strings

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 254
Release Date: 06/01/2014
Number of Discs: 1
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Gordon Jacob Piano Concerto No. 1 (Premiere Recording)
Malcolm Williamson Concerto No. 2
Doreen Carwithen Piano Concerto

Mark Bebbington, Piano
Innovation Chamber Ensemble
(Players From The CBSO)
Conducted By Richard
Jenkinson

Mark Bebbington, whose dedicated exploration of music by British composers for SOMM has received widespread acclaim, is the soloist in this important new release featuring three works for piano and string orchestra, including the world première recording of Gordon Jacob’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano & Strings. He is partnered by the Innovation Chamber Ensemble, founded in 2002 by the principal string players of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the conductor and cellist Richard Jenkinson, whose recent performances have included  the chamber versions of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and Mahler’s Fourth.

Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was born in London and studied at the Royal College of Music. He achieved renown during his long life not only as a prolific writer of well crafted and technically challenging music but also as an expert on orchestration. Composers as different as Vaughan Williams and Noël Coward entrusted him with arrangements of their music, and his rousing version of the national anthem was one of the musical highlights of the 1953 coronation. Jacob’s Concerto No. 1 for piano and string orchestra was written in 1927 and first performed by fellow composer Arthur Benjamin with the Queen’s Hall Orchestra under Sir Henry Wood. Like all the works on this CD, it is in three movements and combines moments of high virtuosity and rhythmic excitement with passages of deeply-felt poetry.

Doreen Carwithen (1922-2003) studied cello, harmony and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, where one of her teachers was the composer William Alwyn. Her brilliant overture ODTAA (One Damn Thing After Another) received its first performance in 1947, the year in which she began an apprenticeship studying the craft of film music, her first assignment being to assist Sir Arnold Bax while he was writing the music for David Lean’s classic version of Oliver Twist; she went on to compose the scores for over thirty films herself. In 1961 she married her former teacher and became known as Mary Alwyn. Her most substantial orchestral score, the Concerto for piano and strings, was completed in 1948 and first played in a radio broadcast three years later; it subsequently appeared in a Promenade Concert, with Iris Loveridge as soloist. The outer movements are mainly vigorous but with quieter, more romantic passages providing contrast, while the beautiful slow movement assigns a prominent role to a solo violin.

Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003) was born in Sydney, where he studied composition  and horn at the city’s Conservatorium of Music. In 1950 he moved to London, where he earned a living as an organist and night-club pianist, later having composition lessons from Elisabeth Lutyens. In 1975 he succeeded Sir Arthur Bliss as Master of the Queen’s Music. Williamson wrote four piano concertos, of which the Concerto No. 2 in F sharp minor, with string orchestra, is the most immediately accessible. Written in the space of only eight days for a competition in 1960, its three movements are thematically connected but display a wide variety of moods and stylistic affinities, from Stravinsky to Gershwin; the composer described it as ‘a parody of myself’. After a toccata-like first movement, the second provides contrast with its main theme inspired by Jewish chants. The up-beat finale is dominated by a highly rhythmic idea introduced by the piano but also includes brief allusions to two popular dance forms, the conga and the waltz, which bring the concerto to an effervescent conclusion.

BBC Radio 3 review by Andrew McGregor, 3rd January 2015 click HERE to listen

Mark Bebbington is at his imperious, sensitive best in this fascinating triptych of concertos with string orchestra … Richard Jenkinson secures some terrifically spruce and committed playing from the Innovation Chamber Ensemble (whose members are drawn from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra), while the sound is vividly realistic to match. A job well done! Andrew Achenbach, Classical Ear

Outstanding – selected recording in the December 2014 edition of International Record Review

In recent years Mark Bebbington has established a reputation as one of today’s most strikingly individual British pianists. His discs of British music for SOMM have met with unanimous critical acclaim and notably, his cycles of Frank Bridge and John Ireland, have attracted seven consecutive sets of 5***** in BBC Music Magazine.

Over recent seasons Mark has toured extensively throughout Central and Northern Europe, the Far East and North Africa and has performed at major UK venues with the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic and London Mozart Players. Mark makes his Carnegie Hall debut with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra in October 2014.

As a recitalist he makes regular appearances at major UK and International Festivals.

Innovation Chamber Ensemble was formed in 2001 by the principal string players of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The Ensemble’s first concerts were at their home of the CBSO Centre, Birmingham and at London’s Wigmore Hall. The group has played at many of the UK’s leading festivals and most prestigious venues. The Ensemble has made several recordings, (one of which was featured as Classic FM Disc of the Week) and broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and 4. Recently the Ensemble has recorded for SOMM, including the first recording of Elgar’s Powick Asylum Music (SOMMCD 252) and a disc of Wassanaer’s Six Concerti Armonici which will be released shortly.

In its larger formation with winds and brass, ICE has performed Mahler’s Fourth Symphony,  Das Lied von der Erde, Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition at the Buxton, Deal, Fishguard, Newbury, Petworth and Sounds New (Canterbury Cathedral) Festivals.

Richard Jenkinson studied the cello from the age of five with Florence Hooton, Raphael Wallfisch and William Pleeth. As a cellist he has won many awards and prizes including the Gold Medal (Guildhall School of Music & Drama) and Vittorio Gui Chamber Music Competition (Florence, Italy). He has performed concertos in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Symphony Hall, Birmingham and recitals at London’s South Bank, the Wigmore Hall and in chamber groups at most festivals and venues around the UK. He was principal cello with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and Dante String Quartet. He has recorded for SOMM, Hyperion, Nimbus, Blue Rhythm and the Toccata labels.

Richard studied conducting with Michael Salter (Repton School), Alan Hazeldine (Guildhall School of Music & Drama) and more recently he has been fortunate of the support of Ilan Volkov, Andris Nelsons and Professor Simon Halsey at the University of Birmingham. He is currently Music Director and Conductor of the Innovation Chamber Ensemble, Orchestra of St. John and the British Police Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted at major many music festivals and is due to perform at Hereford Cathedral and Birmingham’s Symphony Hall later this year.

Richard is currently studying for a Ph.D in music at the University of Birmingham where he is a Bramall Scholar.

On This Recording

  1. Piano Concerto No.1: I. Allegro assai
  2. Piano Concerto No.1: II. Adagio
  3. Piano Concerto No.1: III. Allegro risoluto
  4. Piano Concerto No. 2: I. Allegro con brio
  5. Piano Concerto No. 2: II. Andante lento
  6. Piano Concerto No. 2: III. Allegro con spirito
  7. Piano Concerto: I. Allegro assai
  8. Piano Concerto: II. Lento
  9. Piano Concerto: III. Moderato e deciso ma con moto