Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Le danze del Re David
Questo fu il carro della morte
Alt Wien
I Naviganti
Piedigrotta
Mark Bebbington (piano)

Recorded January 2003 in the CBSO Centre, Birmingham
CD No: SOMM NEW HORIZONS SOMMCD 032
Duration: 67 minutes
Reviewed: November 2003
New horizons indeed! This is an excellent CD of very enjoyable piano music that will appeal to anyone with a taste for Debussy’s and Ravel’s keyboard works, not to mention Albéniz’s Ibéria cycle, and who also appreciates Respighi’s evocative orchestral music. Florence-born Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a prolific film- and guitar-music composer ended his days in Beverly Hills in 1968, aged 73, his ’film’ pupils having included Henry Mancini, André Previn and John Williams.
Mark Bebbington, in the throes of a very important London series of recitals focussing on the British Piano Sonata (the first instalment, on 29 October, reviewed on this site), appears to be a master of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s colourful, rhythmic and languorous piano works. The composer’s wide-compass use of the instrument, with fistfuls of notes in the more exuberant music, while delighting the listener also seem to be awkwardly written and offer particular challenges to the pianist. This may account for this music’s neglect, for it is not the music itself – here revealed as alive and kicking: rhythmic bounce, melodic endurance and a vivid sense of imagery.
Mark Bebbington’s considerable virtuosity is a pleasure in itself, which serves this vibrant and crepuscular music with distinction. The street-song nature of some movements is very attractive, as is the rhetoric that never seems imposed. The sombre and touching Questo… (This was death’s chariot) is a real find in its brooding and climactic regret, to which the waltz-pastiche of Alt Wien is an initially sweet counterpart before becoming darker in its ’social commentary’, the waltz transformed into a foxtrot; the First War had been over but a few years.
All the music here is communicative, melodic and appealing, variegated and emotionally wide-ranging – whether it be the retrospection of I Naviganti, the exuberance and nocturnal colours of Piedigrotta or the charged atmosphere of King David’s Dances. It’s been a real pleasure to get to know these works, and also Mark Bebbington’s dedication and musicianship. Add in first-class sound, production values and presentation for a thoroughly recommendable release.

 

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