Introducing: York Bowen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"New music" isn't a description reserved solely for pieces that have just been written. It also applies to music that jostles the lingua franca, snaps the course of musical history out of a particular rut, or simply slips through the cracks and patiently awaits a revival. The music of English composer-pianist York Bowen has been waiting for almost half a century.

Bowen was born in 1884, a decade after Sergei Rachmaninoff and Maurice Ravel. His rich, unique Romantic language was soon eclipsed by the avant-garde advances of his contemporaries, among them Igor Stravinsky, Alban Berg and Edgard Varèse.

Q2 shines a spotlight on composers who warrant reevaluation. With the pianist Stephen Hough presiding over the York Bowen Society and some new CDs on the market, now might be the right time to reexamine Bowen's music.

We'll be introducing some of Bowen's Piano Sonatas and Piano Concertos into the Q2 stream. Tune in or check out the above-excerpted opening of his Short Sonata in C-sharp Minor, Op. 35/1, from a recent recording by the pianist Danny Driver and share your reactions.

What do you think of Mr. Bowen's music? Does it deserve a second look? Are we in need these days of more music characterized by simplicity, charm, and elegance? And are there other composers whose works should be revived? Let Q2 know!

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Comments [6]

Walter Simmons

Here's a piece I think is just the kind of piece you like to find: It's called "And He Sent Forth a Dove," and it's by Arnold Rosner. It is a 2-minute piece for solo piano, and can be found on Albany's recent release of Rosner's complete piano music. I know that you know Rosner's music, because you've played his "A Gentle Musicke" several times. Why don't you check this out. I think your listeners would go for it.

Dec. 08 2009 10:32 AM
Walter Simmons from Port Chester, NY

Many of my favorite composers are rarely--if ever--played on classical radio in NY. For example, how about the following, which are all on currently available CDs:
Giannini: Symphony No. 4; Psalm 130
Flagello: Piano Concerto No. 1; Cello Capriccio; Piano Sonata; Violin/Piano Sonata
Rosner: Symphony No. 5
Mennin: Symphony No. 6
Persichetti: Symphony No. 6
This barely scratches the surface.

Dec. 05 2009 01:07 PM
Marsha from Santa Fe

I'd love to hear more of him... very charming stuff.

Nov. 16 2009 05:41 PM
Jamie Conrad from Alexandria

You played one of his sonatas the other day and I liked it so much I Googled the sonata and opus numbers (b/c the playlist didn't name the composer). Sort of a more pastoral Poulenc. So yes, please play more by him.

Federico Mompou is another underappreciated composer of marvelous piano music.

Other composers who don't get much airplay anywhere include David Diamond, Virgil Thompson, Kevin Volans, and Edgar Meyer.

Nov. 14 2009 10:48 AM
Jeff from nyc

Roger Chase recorded 2 of Bowen's lvoely "Melody"s for viola on his recent Dutton Epoch CD "The Tertis Tradition," with pianist Michiko Otaki.

Nov. 12 2009 10:24 AM
Jeff from Warwick, NY

How about a revival of Charles Tomlinson Griffes? A great American Composer with some really interesting and beautiful music.

Nov. 11 2009 10:32 PM

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