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This wonderful collection of Vaughan- Williams’ keyboard music spent several weeks in the Classical Charts earlier this year, and deservedly so. The disc is split 50-50 between solos, played by Bebbington, and duos (amounting to just three of the 18 tracks) where he is joined by Omordia. The major works are for two pianos: the Introduction & Fugue (1945-6) and the 1947 transcription of Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis. The Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934)is given as a duet.

There’s a compelling understanding between the two pianists in their performances together. The opening of the Tallis Fantasia takes my breath away in its version for string orchestra, and does so too in this rapt, quite swift account for two pianos. Paired keyboards were evidently much on RVW’s mind at this time, with the adaptation of the C major Concerto for Two pianos in 1946, the same year in which the Introduction & Fugue was completed. This latter is an extraordinary, deeply felt homage to Bach that unfolds over an enormous timespan, with passages both delicate and robust, requiring great concentration to shape correctly, as it most definitely is here.

Bach figures again in the solo Chorale & Choral Prelude on ‘Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ’ (1930), notable for being, at least in part, a triple recomposition – Bach twice, then RVW – of a 16th-century chorale by Calvisius. Of the solo items, though, the evocative The Lake in the Mountains (1947 – based on music from the film score The 49th Parallel) is the most impressive, but proved RVW’s swansong for the instrument. Bebbington is wonderfully light-fingered here, as he is in the two short suites. Terrific sound.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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