A new recording of Grieg’s evergreen Piano Concerto might not inspire seasoned listeners, but soloist Mark Bebbington avoids tedium and extracts from the piece the beauty and drama that contributed to its striking originality. The concerto is rightly popular, and in a convincing performance under Jan Latham-Koenig, Bebbington reminds us why. The pianist is attentive to detail and expressive without bluster, and the RPO likewise avoids excess in favour of sensitivity and responsiveness.
We are also given an enticing taste of what might have been in the form of an incomplete Piano Concerto No 2 in B Minor, reconstructed from Grieg’s notes. In two versions – one for piano and orchestra, one for solo piano – the extant 150 bars are revealed to have contained the seeds of a more folk-like and simple concerto, but one that is unmistakably Grieg’s.
The pairing with Delius brings added interest. The two were good friends, and Delius owed his career in composition to Grieg’s advocacy. The Delius concerto is not well-known, although it should be. As with his Grieg, Bebbington’s interpretation is more expansive than the few other recordings available, and the well-engineered Somm recording captures the dynamic range and expressiveness of both soloist and orchestra. Three Preludes and a piano transcription of On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring close the disc in pleasingly Debussyian fashion.