REVIEW: Mark Bebbington: Grieg and Delius

Here’s a track listing to make music lovers pause: Piano Concerto No 2 in B minor by Grieg. Surely Norway’s beloved composer only wrote an A minor concerto — the popular one that begins with decisive piano chords tumbling down, as if over a cliff. This, however, is something else: an abandoned work from 1881, left very unfinished. But that doesn’t stop musicologists getting excited, and here we have Robert Matthew-Walker’s lightly orchestrated arrangement of the surviving sketches, performed by the excellent Mark Bebbington with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig. It lasts an epic four minutes.

Grieg’s fingerprints are clearly audible. One grimacing theme is just the thing a goblin would whistle in the incidental music for Peer Gynt. Another theme is unassumingly bucolic. None of the material suggests that it is rich for development, although Grieg wouldn’t be the first composer to make something from not very much. This isn’t a novelty that changes world history, but it’s good to have the evidence laid out, and I’d happily hear Bebbington play anything. He also offers the other Grieg piano concerto and the less familiar concerto by Delius, both presented with nimble grace, some grandiloquent aplomb, and succulent orchestral playing.

Geoff Brown, The Times
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