Chandos continues to champion the works of York Bowen, this time turning to the chamber works of this great composer who, after years of neglect, is finding ever growing audiences. The works are performed by the Gould Piano Trio, one of the finest ensembles of their kind, which is joined by the clarinettist Robert Plane, violinist Mia Cooper, and violist David Adams. The Piano Trio in E minor is arguably Bowen’s masterpiece of chamber music and one of the finest such works by a British composer. It features a natural fluency and melodic expression that are hallmarks of Bowen’s output. The Phantasy Quintet is a fascinating work for the virtually unique combination of bass clarinet and string quartet. Flowing seamlessly, the music masterfully integrates the bass clarinet into the texture. Also included is the first movement from the unfinished early Piano Trio in D minor, edited for this premiere recording by the Gould Piano Trio. Its structure is simpler and less organic than the later works but it is an intriguing piece and clearly the work of a gifted creative figure. The Rhapsody Trio in A minor and Clarinet Sonata in F minor complete the disc.
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York Bowen has a distinguished reputation as a composer and was considered to be one of Britain’s finest pianists. In his day he was known as ‘The English Rachmaninoff’, and Saint-Saëns described him as ‘the most remarkable of the young British composers’. The works of York Bowen tend to display a blend of romanticism and strong individuality, and although his influences include the likes of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky, his music is also strongly defined by textures and harmonies that are uniquely ‘Bowen’. This recording presents the only two surviving symphonies by Bowen: Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2, which are performed here by the BBC Philharmonic under the exclusive Chandos artist Sir Andrew Davis.
This collection ranges widely over Bowen’s solo piano output, from the larger, demanding, virtuoso Second Ballade in A minor, dating from about 1930, to the Three Miniatures, composed fifteen years previously following Bowen’s being invalided out of the Scots Guards. The earliest works on this volume are the Three Pieces, Op. 20, written around 1905. The piano writing is superb, perhaps influenced by Fauré and certainly impressionistic in intent; they reveal a young master’s mind………..
York Bowen has been described as ‘the English Rachmaninov’. Volume one of the series helped to reassess Bowen’s music, and volume two is sure to develop this further. The distinguished Dutch pianist Joop Celis performs regularly as a solo, chamber and concert artist. Following volume one, International Record Review described Celis as a ‘thoroughly sympathetic advocate of Bowen’s work… powerful and poised, nimble and sensitive’………..This disc an astounding addition to the piano catalogue, both in terms of performance and repertoire.