This disc is the fourth in a series devoted to Bowen’s solo piano music, and like the earlier issues it is made up of a wide range of different works, from relatively large-scale structures to quite short, almost miniature, pieces. Unlike that of any other British composer of his generation, Bowen’s music for piano was written with the most profound understanding of the capabilities of the modern concert grand piano.
The music here comes from two distinct periods in Bowen’s life: the first two decades of the new century and the period from 1949 to 1960. Despite the varying nature of their provenance, the music throughout has an impressive consistency of style.
Here are the delightful and beautifully articulate three-movement Sonatina of 1954 and the early Suite Mignonne (the Fourth Suite) and Third Suite, both composed shortly before Bowen volunteered to join the Scots Guards during World War I. Also included are the Three Novelettes, published in 1949, which exemplify much of the emotional mood of the music of this collection, besides the rare influence of Sibelius and Bax. The early Polonaise in F sharp is a very different study: clearly a thinly veiled homage to Chopin, it demonstrates Bowen’s skill in creating a large single piece within a stylised dance form. The album is completed by another early inspiration, the distinctively titled miniature ‘A Whim’.
The pianist Joop Celis has given lecture recitals on the piano works of York Bowen for the Dutch and Belgian branches of the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA), and has also published essays on the composer. In 2005 he gave master-classes, lectures and recitals both in South Korea and China, performing piano works by Bowen and others. His previous three CDs for Chandos, likewise with works by York Bowen, have received outstanding reviews in the international press.