It was through the
encouragement of his teacher Aldo Ciccolini
that Mark Bebbington began to perform
the piano music of Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
This composer was born in Italy. However
in the 1930s his Jewish ancestry forced
him to leave for the USA. There he made
a career in Hollywood. His pupils include
André Previn and Nelson Riddle.
You might well have heard his name.
He wrote a guitar concerto for Segovia
and this was recorded. Also his reputedly
Hollywood-brash Second Violin Concerto,
subtitled The Prophets, was taken
up and recorded by Jascha Heifetz (RCA).
All the pieces on this
disc predates the flight to America.
The music is a fascinating blend of
impressionistic delicacy, the memory
of simple songs and the clangour of
bells. Nothing here is dissonant or
difficult to access.
The five movement suite
Le danza del Re David is
bejewelled music with a Semitic sway
to the themes amid pearlescent decorative
writing. The main influence is Debussy.
The themes have the character of children's
nursery rhymes but they are dressed
in serious and technically demanding
garb. Dark and bell-like percussive
writing alternates with impressionistic
textures. The final section ends in
a blaze of bells recalling writing by
Bax and Rachmaninov.
The Questo fu
il carro della morte is a relaxed
and gently-lit sketch with a rising
bell-like swing and ultimately a triumphant
The three movement
Alt Wien was written for
the Princesse de Polignac. It should
appeal to those who enjoy the decorative
liquid brio of Godowsky in his Sonata
and in the Java Suite (the Esther Budiardjo
recording is superb). With a title like
that we must not be surprised to catch
the shards and shrapnel of waltzes recalled
and suggested. There are times when
this sounds as if it might have been
a piano transcription of Ravel's La
I Naviganti projects
a delicate air of mystery gently coloured.
Romantic gestures strike languidly upwards
from the mezzotint haze.
a Neapolitan fantasy in five movements.
It includes an angry tormented tarantella.
Notte e luna is suggestive of
some warm Granada night-scene. There
is even a suggestion of the same atomised
dance material we find in Alt Wien
as well as the playground innocence
of Le danze del Re David.
All credit to Mark
Bebbington and Somm for opening this
stimulating door on this little known
piano music by a composer who died in
Beverley Hills some forty years ago.
Bebbington's playing is sensitive. Technically
these pieces seem to lie well under
his hands. If you enjoy Godowsky, Debussy,
Bax and Mompou you will want this disc.
This is music of drifting suggestive
half-lights and exuberant impressionism.