One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Concertino for piano and orchestra (1939) (ed. orch. Graham Parlett) [29:06]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Piano Concerto (1930) [28:15]
Legend for piano and orchestra (1934) [13:14]
Mark Bebbington (piano)
Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis
rec. 15-16 April 2009, Town Hall, Birmingham. DDD
premiere recording of Bax Concertino
SOMM SOMMCD242 [70:37]
Experience Classicsonline

It has been a long while since I have heard a major work by Bax for the first time. In the 1970s and early 1980s this pilgrimage of discovery came through the kindness of older collectors who wanted nothing in return. It’s difficult now to evoke the delight of those now-quaint cassettes arriving in the post in ones or twos. Couple this with the weekly scanning of Radio Times for Bax items. The off-air tapes from enthusiasts were played exhaustively. Those recordings were often primitive but how else in those days could I hear Northern Ballad No. 2 and a couple dozen other things that were just tantalising names to me at the time. With Bax the riches now available it’s difficult to imagine how little Bax was available in the 1970s.

The Bax Concertino – written for Harriet Cohen - starts in a combination of the pearly piano ecstatic tremble of the start of the Winter Legends and the leafy emerald shimmer of Spring Fire. The music also touches on Ireland and the sepulchral rumblings of Bax’s own Northern Ballad No. 2. Bebbington is wonderful at the weaving of moonlight and steel. Warlike thrusts cut through the ecstatic and the rhetorical. There is a celebratory roar to the music yet the first movement ends in a typically magical Baxian moonlight. The slow pulse and dreamy climaxes recall Scott’s two piano concertos. The finale is not short on catchy Baxian figures, Irish jiggery, fast flurries and a certain cinematic triumph. Ultimately the finale lacks conviction. As for the name … well, I suspect Concertino was a working title rather than a permanent choice. It sits ill with the music which has bardic Nordic strength. Vintage Bax.

Other Bax revelations remain possible though they are all early works. What about the 1904 Variations for Orchestra, his earliest completed orchestral work? From the following year there’s A Song of War and Victory and most intriguing of all is the 1907 Symphony in F. It was never orchestrated. Bax wrote that "I was engaged upon a colossal symphony which would have occupied quite an hour in performance, were such a cloud-cuckoo dream ever to become a reality". Now that I want to hear. Surely a sympathetic orchestrator au fait with the echt Baxian style will step forward?

On the remainder of this disc Bebbington and the Orchestra of the Swan blithely accommodate the warm and natural trajectory of the Ireland Piano Concerto. It’s an often idyllic work and needs room to stretch and breathe. This it receives and Bebbington brings out the piece as never before. It does, I suppose, have similarities with the Cyril Scott First Piano Concerto of fifteen years earlier and remains a fragile bloom that needs careful nurture if it not to be bruised. For contrast the finale is snappy and the brass memorably bare their teeth. The woodblock perhaps implies a tribute to Ravel while other sections are reminiscent of the de Falla whose Nights in the Gardens of Spain was a favourite of Cohen though she never recorded it.

The Ireland Legend is even more enigmatic and enthralling. It picks up on prehistoric England and carries the murmur of ancestral voices. These sometimes confide in a language no longer known and sometimes bray out with otherworldly malevolence. In its short compass the work is full of stimulating musical detail including the delightful interplay of taut rhythmic work at 6:21 – glorious. There’s also some lovely cor anglais writing which laps around the upland walks and grazings of Sussex. Druidic stuff wonderfully done.

With good notes by Bruce Phillips and by Graham Parlett this CD should do very well indeed. The piano needs controlled impact to make its message. Bebbington is one of the very few whose illustrious cushioned tone appears to transcend the percussive nature of the instrument. That he does so much for British music in the recording studio and the concert hall is to his great credit. This disc continues the line from his recent Ferguson-Rawsthorne SOMM disc. The recording here is one of Somm’s very best.

Phillips has brought the Ireland Trust out into sunlight after decades when its profile was very low indeed. Parlett, the ‘onlie begetter’ of the Concertino as a concert reality has already done so much for Bax. I hope that he will soon turn his attention to orchestrating those early works – the Symphony first please.

The works on this disc make very good companions – brethren under the skin.

Rob Barnett




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.