Saturday, 28 February 2009

York Bowen:Piano Works - Volume 3 on Chandos

Ballade No.2 Op.87 (1931) Three Songs without Words Op.94 (1935) From Three Preludes Op.81 (late 1920s) Short Sonata Op.35 No.1 (1922) Three Miniatures Op.44 (1916) Three Serious Dances Op.51 (1919) Toccata Op.155 (1957) Three Pieces Op. 20 (1905) Joop Celis (piano) CHANDOS CHAN10506

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing this fine CD for MusicWeb International. I opened my review with a ‘wee’ anecdote:-
“I guess the one thing that put York Bowen’s career into perspective for me was meeting a lady on a train. I do not think that it would be giving too much away to say that she was probably a few years older that me – in her late fifties. Conversation about the weather turned to London, the Wigmore Hall and the piano. She told me that the examiner at one of her early ‘grades’ was - York Bowen. My travelling companion probably took her Grade 5 around 1959. It is interesting to note that the earliest piece on this CD, the Three Preludes was composed in 1905 and the latest, the Toccata in 1957. Bowen, then, spanned a considerable part of the Twentieth Century. The ‘sleeve-notes’ to this CD explain this well. They point out that the composer lived from a time when a man could have been expected not to have seen a motor car to a time when John Fitzgerald Kennedy announced his intention to land men on the Moon. And there were two World Wars in between… Of course Bowen has not always been easy to get to grips with – both in the recital room and on CD. I considered that
“It is only relatively recently that enthusiasts of British music have been able to get their heads around Bowen’s music. For many years, during the ’sixties, ’seventies and ’eighties the only record that was generally available was the composer’s recital on Lyrita: it was a good and tantalising introduction. I immediately fell in love with the Preludes – most especially the gorgeous ‘seventh’..”

I felt that “There is always a danger when issuing the ‘complete’ or ‘collected’ works of any composer - or author, poet or essayist - that there is inevitably a deal of second and even third rate works included for the train-spotters amongst us. However, padding is not a word I would apply to this present recording. Each and every work here is a splendid example of Bowen’s craft as well as being a valid contribution to English music. Many of the works given here are premiere recordings – never having appeared on 78s, vinyl or any other medium. They are indeed welcome…”

I concluded my review with “One last thought”
“York Bowen is a composer who seriously impresses me. However it is more than this. Along with Cyril Scott, Samuel Barber and Maurice Ravel I have never yet heard a piece of his music that I have not thoroughly enjoyed or been more or less moved by. That is surely a rare thing. And it is certainly not true of some of the ‘greats’ – at least for me”.

Please read my full review at MusicWeb International

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