British pianist MARK BEBBINGTON’S third recording for Resonus Classics, due out on 9 December 2022, is an album of less well-known works by RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS.

Piano Quintet (1904)
The Lark Ascending (original version for violin and piano)
Romance for viola and piano
Fantasia (Quasi Variazione) on the old 104th Psalm Tune, for solo piano, choir and orchestra
Mark Bebbington, piano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Hilary Davan Wetton, conductor
City of London Choir
Duncan Riddell, violin
Abigail Fenna, viola
Richard Harwood, cello
Benjamin Cunningham, double bass
Resonus Classics RES10311
Release date: 9 December 2022
For the inclusion of an almost totally neglected orchestral work of around 15 minutes, the Fantasia (Quasi Variazione) on the Old 104th, for solo piano, choir and orchestra, Bebbington is joined by the City of London Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor, Hilary Davan Wetton.
“It’s a fascinating work, full of musical and philosophical contradictions”, said Bebbington; “the choir and orchestra proclaim the spiritual certainties of the 104th Psalm text, but the piano in three massive solo cadenzas, speaks a language of uncertainty and ambivalence with piano writing that draws on Busoni and late Beethoven – but it is essentially entirely unto itself in its startling originality.”
“Until a performance I gave with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and City of London Choir at the Barbican in May, the work had not been heard on a central London stage since its performance at a 1949 Prom, shortly after its premiere at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester: a hiatus of over seventy years. Perhaps the ambivalence of the message of the work went down less well in the post-WW2 era of its premiere, but it is a potent anthem for our own troubled times.”
Coupled with the 104th Fantasia are Vaughan Williams’s early Piano Quintet of 1904 and the Romance for viola and piano, (the viola being the composer’s favourite instrument), and the evergreen ‘The Lark Ascending’ in its original 1914 version for violin and piano.
The Piano Quintet is performed by string principals from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Duncan Riddell, Abigail Fenna, Richard Harwood and Benjamin Cunningham – with whom Bebbington is a regular soloist.
The recording marks the first in 50 years of the 104th Fantasia and the only recording of the Piano Quintet and Romance during ‘RVW150’; the international celebration of the composer and his music in this his 150th anniversary year.
Mark Bebbington is well known for his championing of British composers, with complete cycles of John Ireland and Frank Bridge recorded on SOMM label, as well as major works by Bax, Vaughan Williams, Mathias, Benjamin Dale, Doreen Carwithen and Alwyn.
Further information
Mark Bebbington features in the October 2022 issue of International Piano:
Mark Bebbington’s extended feature on Vaughan Williams’s piano music can be found in the official RVW150 publication, published by Mark Allen Group: