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Private Passions: Piano music by Arnold Bax & Harriet Cohen

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0193
Release Date: 01/25/2019
Number of Discs: 1
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Liner Notes
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“Truly a remarkable pianist”– The Times

Pianist Mark Bebbington’s long association with SOMM Recordingshas produced a remarkable array of recordings championing newly discovered British music.

Pairing the piano music of Arnold Bax and Harriet Cohen, his latest disc includes eight first recordings and promises fresh insights into the music of a revered English master and revelatory performances of an overlooked composer who subsequently found fame as a pianist.

The result, Private Passions, is an illuminating dialogue between one of the pre-eminent British composers of the last century and his muse who together shared a 42-year-long love affair.

The eight first recordings here include Bax’s vitally contrasted Four Pieces from 1947 and Cohen’s evocatively coloured Russian Impressions – the first documented public performance of which Bebbington gave in London in 2015 – a suite dating from around 1913 that variously hints at the influence of Mussorgsky, Debussy and Glinka.

Heard here in its original version, Bax’s E flat Piano Sonata of 1921 (which prompted the composer’s First Symphony) is as vivid and rich a statement as he ever made. Completing the disc is Bax’s In the Night (Passacaglia), an evocative piece that owes much to the intimacy of his relationship with Cohen, and Legend, boasting music of grandeur and poetry wholly suited to its title.

Mark Bebbington’s previous release with SOMM featured piano concertos by Grieg and Delius (SOMMCD 269) – “A Grieg concerto the equal of any I have heard, the most enjoyable version of the Delius concerto I know and a novelty world premiere to boot. All round excellence” (MusicWeb International) – and was a CD of the Week for The Times, Classic FM and Mail on Sunday.

A bonus track – the Lento espressivo second movement of the so-called Salzburg Sonata – is available for download only.

On This Recording

    Arnold Bax
    Sonata in E flat major

  1. Allegro moderato e feroce – molto cantabile
  2. Lento con molta espressione
  3. Finale
  4. In The Night

  5. In the Night (Passacaglia)
  6. Four Pieces

  7. Fantastic March
  8. Romanza
  9. Idyll
  10. Phantasie
  11. Harriet Cohen
    Russian Impressions

  12. Sunset on the Volga
  13. The Exile
  14. The Old Church at Wilna
  15. The Tartars
  16. Legend

  17. Legend

*Bonus track on the downloads: “Salzburg” Sonata: Lento Espressivo by Bax

Reviews:

“Mark Bebbington continues to consolidate his position as an exemplary interpreter of 20th-century British piano music with this intimate pairing of Arnold Bax and Harriet Cohen… Bebbington convinces that these pieces belong together like a set of fine watercolour studies. Recorded by SOMM with their usual warm and life-like acoustic, Private Passions is a highly attractive addition to Bebbington’s expanding discography.” —Limelight Magazine

“the main event on Mark Bebbington’s intelligently programmed disc is the Bax Sonata in E-flat…First-rate sound completes this splendid release.” —Guy Rickards, International Piano (July Album of the Month!)

“First recordings of two sets of piano pieces by Arnold Bax and Harriet Cohen (his charismatic muse and lover) adorn this latest helping of home-grown fare from the excellent Mark Bebbington. Cohen’s four Russian Impressions prove a charming find, the first two especially winning Bax’s approval. Bebbington lends them atmospheric and deftly affectionate advocacy, as he does the rather more substantial Four Pieces that Bax completed in March 1947. … However, the real meat in this uncommonly enterprising and generous programme comes with the large-scale Sonata in E flat that Bax completed in June 1921 and subsequently reworked as his First Symphony. … With his rock-solid technical armoury and supreme composure, Bebbington brings thrilling power and intoxicating poetry to Bax’s turbulent, ruggedly beautiful inspiration, the sonata’s gorgeous Lento con molto espressione centrepiece delivered with especial perception. … In summary, a terrific issue.” —Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone Magazine

“With playing like molten lava and ardent lyricism, Bebbington touches the sublime…” —Classica (Named a Choc de Classica release for June)

“…the lava tumbles out with astonishing force from Mark Bebbington, who plays with tremendous authority, supported by a vivid recording with an appropriately wide dynamic range. In its orchestrated symphonic form…the music writhes with a tumult of colours; but Bebbington proves that Bax’s first thoughts, testing piano and pianist to the limit, have their own validity and power. … Whatever his passions, private or public, Bax does what all worthwhile composers do: he keeps springing surprises.” —Geoff Brown, BBC Music Magazine May 2019 Performance: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Recording: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Bebbington’s technique is magnificent, his range of dynamics vast… Full credit to the engineers for their realisation of his inspired playing. … This disc will be an essential purchase for Bax enthusiasts, but I would suggest that many others will find it rewarding. … Five Stars — a fine compilation of music by a neglected master, superbly played.” —Philip Borg-Wheeler, Fanfare