Saturday, 26 February 2011

York Bowen: Toccatina for piano

I first heard this Toccatina when reviewing the second volume of York Bowen’s piano music on Chandos, played by Joop Celis. However, I recently discovered this superb performance on YouTube by HeeJungKim.
York Bowen wrote the Siciliano and Toccatina, Op.125 in 1948 as a twenty-first birthday present for his pupil Monica Watson. Her birthday was in fact in April 1949. Miss Watson has written in her centenary study of Bowen that the composer wrote the piece’s dedication, ‘This little theme fragment was conceived before breakfast one morning during a visit to Mayfair Avenue in 1948 and being approved by the present recipient of this manuscript it seemed highly appropriate to form a piece out of it as a token to this important occasion – together with a second piece to keep it company. A secret well kept one thinks.’
Monica Watson admitted to being absolutely delighted as she had no idea that the composer was going to write and dedicate these two pieces. They were duly performed by her at the R.B.A. Galleries on November 23rd 1949 and were published by Joseph Williams in 1951.
The liner notes of the Chandos recording suggests that this second piece in A minor is a ‘little toccata’ which is full of wry humour. I guess, that is a fiendishly difficult 'little toccata' however.
The reviewer of The Times deprecatingly notes that Miss Watson played the York Bowen miniatures ‘prettily'!

I only hope that HeeJungKim chooses to record the Siciliano.

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