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CD Review

York Bowen

Complete Works for Viola & Piano

  • Sonata for Viola & Piano #1 in C minor, Op. 18
  • Romance for Viola & Piano in D Flat Major
  • Fantasie Quartet for 4 Violas
  • Fantasy for Viola & Piano, Op. 54
  • Sonata for Viola & Piano #2 in F Major, Op. 22
  • Romance for Viola & Piano in A Major
  • Allegro de concert for Viola & Piano in D minor
  • Melody for the G String, Op. 47
  • Melody for the C String, Op. 51
  • Rhapsody for Viola & Piano
  • Transcription of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata
Laurence Power, viola
Simon Crawford Phillips, piano
Hyperion CDA67651/2 123m DDD
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With this magnificent 2-disc set, Hyperion's unflinching commitment to the cause of British music goes on unabated. York Bowen is one of those many composers who during their lifetime commanded a certain affection and admiration but as time wore on, their star faded into almost total obscurity, and it is only in the last decade or so that their stock has started to rise from the ashes.

Bowen's output includes many symphonic and chamber works, but he was most prolific in the instrumental field, writing sonatas for practically every instrument. His repertoire for viola and piano is particularly rich, and this issue includes all the pieces written for this combination. Apart from the 1955 G minor Rhapsody, all these compositions are the fruit of Bowen's youthful years, and although the music reflects an artist on his way to maturity, there are touches aplenty of what was to come later on.

The 2 Sonatas in particular are the most substantial and the most imaginative of the lot. Written just a year apart (1905-06), they are very well crafted pieces full of attractive tunes and passionate mood changes, and Bowen's music must have been a fresh breeze blowing through the corridors of British music of the time.

The rest of the programme delights with a myriad of elegiac and wistful sounds. Power and Crawford-Phillips perform with perfect unison and instinctive clarity and their abundant virtuosity serves the music with marvellous effect. First rate sound and Lewis Foreman's fascinating essay complete what is a timely addition to the Bowen discography.

Copyright © 2008 by Gerald Fenech