Mark Bebbington at Plymouth Museum (review)

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If you were talking English composers who wrote for the piano, it’s unlikely that John Ireland would come top of any list.

Yet the eminently-persuasive playing of leading exponent, Mark Bebbington, with some suitably chosen miniatures should surely demand a rethink of the composer’s apparent neglect.

Preceded by a brief biopic of Ireland’s life, introduced in this the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death by John Ireland Trust chairman, Bruce Phillips, Mark opened his recital with a shimmering account of The Island Spell, which utterly captured the magic in the writing, with textures reminiscent of the French Impressionists.

Month’s Mind totally encapsulates the quite individual harmonic language of the composer, bitter-sweet with its fair share of dissonance, but never added for mere effect alone.

Elegy and Minuet from the Downland Suite were more overtly pastoral in nature, leaving the virtuosity of Amberley Wild Brooks to provide the perfect sum-up.

Technical mastery was again very much to the fore in Liszt’s Reminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor, preceded by a delightful aperitif in the shape of the composer’s Valse Impromptu.

Poulenc’s Homage a Edith Piaf created the ideal prelude to his Suite Napoli, where the fiendishly difficult finale was despatched with great bravura, bringing to a close a most enjoyable recital that could just have benefitted from having a better instrument on which to do it full justice.


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