Piano Concerto No.11 in F, K413
Piano Concerto No.12 in A, K414
Piano Concerto No.13 in C, K415
Mark Bebbington (piano)
Orchestra of the Swan
Recorded on 12 March 2006 in The Pitville Pump Room, Cheltenham
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2007
CD No: SOMM CÉLESTE SERIES
Duration: 78 minutes
This is a wholly delightful release that finds Mark Bebbington (who enjoys a fine reputation for the playing of pianistic ‘byways’, not least from the British stable) as a lively and stylish interpreter of Mozart’s music. These are ‘modern’ performances but given with a light touch (and a minimum of vibrato for strings – a very attractive adornment). Tempos are relaxed and phrasing is shapely and there’s clearly a good working relationship between pianist, orchestra and conductor. Orchestra of the Swan is based in Stratford-upon-Avon and will be, beginning in the Autumn of 2008, the Associate Ensemble at Birmingham Town Hall. It’s a lively group and is particularly committed to the promotion of new music; here the musicians are sensitive purveyors of Mozart an make an unforced, genial and vivacious contribution under David Curtis, the Orchestra’s Artistic Director.
In his booklet note, Christopher Morley describes this trio of concertos as “loveable”; it’s an apt word and these performances are ideal for showing why. The musicians’ affection for these pieces is sprightly and sensitive; the fast movements sparkle without compromising articulation and the slow ones are not indulged yet have plenty of gravitas. The Larghetto of the F major Concerto transports us to the Elysian Fields.
The A major work is the masterpiece of this set. Bebbington, as throughout, has a patrician sense of scale, a civility, while also appreciating what lies under the music’s surface; there’s a nimbleness from all concerned and a real appreciation of Mozart’s harmonic tensions; the eloquent Andante (taken quite spaciously) is especially inward and searching. The finale, easy to rush, enjoys poise and understatement but no lack of rhythmic relish and witty pointing.
The militaristic beginning of the C major Concerto also demonstrates the Orchestra’s attention to detail and unanimity of ensemble and the musicians’ collective ‘feeling’ for the music (as elsewhere, the horns are pleasingly vivid) and, again, each movement is unfolded with a naturalness and delight that is infectious.
These are interpretations that are beautifully worked out but in which spontaneity is a significant element in their successful realisation; that they were seemingly recorded over just one day is not that surprising.
The sound is intimate and airy with a well-nigh-ideal balance between piano and orchestra. These dynamic, inviting and ingratiating accounts make for a rather special record.