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CD Review

York Bowen

  • String Quartet #2 in D minor, Op. 41
  • String Quartet #3 in G Major, Op. 46b
  • Phantasy Quintet for Bass Clarinet & String Quartet, Op. 93
Timothy Lines, bass clarinet
Archaeus Quartet
British Music Society BMS426CD 70m DDD
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For admirers of British music, York Bowen is fast becoming a name to be reckoned with. Much of his music has found itself on the record shelves, but unfortunately the majority of it focuses on his piano repertoire which is quite considerable.

This CD, dedicated to three of Bowen's chamber works, is an event in itself. All three pieces are première recordings and all can be classified as true rarities. With the First Quartet probably destroyed, the two on this issue are indeed important milestones in our quest to try and understand the composer's musical development.

Published in 1922, the second was dedicated to the Philharmonic Quartet, and although the music is most accessible, its execution can still present difficulties in view of Bowen's predilection for virtuosity and his profound compositional style.

The Third's history is strange and quirky. Never published, there is no known record of its first performance, and until recently it was the victim of total neglect. The reason may perhaps be the work's more elusive spirit and intimacy which reveal the composer's private side and personality which was rarely displayed in his published scores.

The Bass Clarinet Quintet may have been written in 1932, and little is known of its history. Although I cannot ascertained for certain, this composition might be the only work in existence written for bass clarinet and this might account for its near total obscurity. Unpublished and with only two performances to its name, the last one in 1984, this recording is the finest advocacy that it can get. A superb issue, beautifully presented, performed and recorded and with some extremely impressive music for all to enjoy.

Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech