Notes and Editorial Reviews
The perfect accompaniment to a relaxing lie-down after being buffeted by the stresses of modern life. Aspiring to greatness is not its aim, but if you’re looking for a CD to salve and soothe you, Bowerman’s Favoured Fantasies fits the bill nicely.
Theme and Variations
Fantasy on a Theme of Elgar
Fantasy on “Abide with me” (Eventide
Ittai Shapira (vn);
Stephen de Pledge,
Julian Milford (pn);
Bridget MacRae (vc);
Daniel Pailthorpe (fl);
CHAMPS HILL 015 (76:55)
It was only a couple of issues back, in
34:3, that I reviewed a CD of David Bowerman’s music, calling it stirring, uplifting, and ennobling. The title of that album was
A Fantasy Idyll
. Here, in
, we have a follow-up to it with seven works by Bowerman all written within the last five years. If you read my previous review, you will know what to expect. There are those who will say this is music that time has passed by, while others—count me among them—will say beautiful music is timeless.
Note author Malcolm MacDonald refers to the works on this disc as “friendly, social music,” intended as “presents for their performers.” And what better present is there than the one most prized by the giver? Thus, several of the pieces here, as MacDonald continues, “show Bowerman in dialogue with music that he loves.” In each of the pieces, a borrowed musical phrase here, a motivating melody there serves as a springboard from which Bowerman teases out and develops new ideas into self-sustaining, imaginative, original compositions.
It’s no surprise then when the opening strains of the
begin with the familiar chromatic theme of Wagner’s “Liebestod,” but what it spins into is a lyrical poem for violin and piano that has about it the perfumed scent of the French salon—Massenet’s Meditation from
comes to mind. The performance here by violinist Diana Galvydyte is lovely.
The Theme and Variations for solo piano is based on an original hymn tune of pure devotional simplicity. What Bowerman does with it is pure Schumann, a complement if you will to
Album für die Jugend
in variations form. It is beautifully played by pianist Stephen de Pledge.
A picturesque Antigua beach was the setting that inspired Bowerman’s short three-movement Cello Sonata, a piece filled with lots of sunshine and engaging feelings of peaceful calm and well-being. Cellist Bridget MacRae captures the picture-postcard serenity of the piece perfectly.
Bowerman, as you will know from previous reviews, is the entrepreneur behind Champs Hill Records, named for his estate and onsite custom-built concert hall in West Sussex. I mention it again because the
for flute and piano was inspired by the view across the Amberly Wild Brooks looking toward the South Downs. It’s a setting that has inspired poets and composers past, not least of them John Ireland. Bowerman’s suite is in three short movements, each of which is a miniature tone-painting in the best tradition of the English pastoralists. Flutist Daniel Pailthorpe is all a-shimmer with silvery, sylvan song.
for solo piano lies a bit of a music theory joke. Anyone who has studied the rules of harmonic voice-leading knows that
cardinal commandment is “Thou shalt not commit parallel (consecutive) octaves and fifths.” Having been both student and teacher, I know how assiduously this rule is enforced. This particular sin became anathema even before the era of common harmonic practice, which began around the turn of the 17th century. The habit of avoiding consecutive octaves and fifths is already in evidence some two centuries earlier and seems to have coincided with the transition from the Medieval to the Renaissance periods. More than likely, it had to do with the desire to cleanse music of its medievalisms, one of which was voices singing in parallel octaves and fifths. Yet evidence abounds of much later composers who knew the proscription all too well intentionally violating it. Bach does so in the toccata from his famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; Haydn does it in the trio section of the Menuetto movement in his Symphony No. 88; and Chopin was a serial sinner. By the 20th century, of course, the sin of the fathers became a virtue for the children. Bowerman joins this illustrious group with his
, demonstrating that consecutive octaves and fifths can be quite beautiful, especially if you like music with a touch of an Impressionist tint.
Elgar’s well-known Introduction and Allegro serves as the springboard for Bowerman’s
Fantasy on a Theme of Elgar
for violin and piano. The piece was written for Ittai Shapira, the violinist who plays it exquisitely on the disc.
Once again a hymn tune, this time a national anthem familiar at English Football Association Cup Finals, serves as the basis for Bowerman’s
Fantasy on “Abide with Me” (Eventide)
. The tune now finds itself the subject of a string quartet. Though far more advanced and interesting than Benjamin Franklin’s string quartet for open strings, Bowerman’s piece is not so technically challenging as to place it out of bounds as a vehicle for a talented high-school ensemble. Needless to say, it’s played with a great deal of polish by the Bronte Quartet, whose members include Sara Trickey and Katy Gorsuch, violins; Jon Thorne, viola; and Daisy Gathorne-Hardy, cello.
All of the music on this disc can be called beautiful, but much of it, to be candid, would have to be categorized as “easy listening.” It’s the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing lie-down after being buffeted by the stresses of modern life. Aspiring to greatness is not its aim, but if you’re looking for a CD to salve and soothe you, Bowerman’s
fits the bill nicely.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Sonata for cello & piano by David Bowerman
Bridget MacRae (Cello),
Julian Milford (Piano)
Length: 14 Minutes 34 Secs.
Elegy, for piano by David Bowerman
Julian Milford (Piano)
Length: 4 Minutes 49 Secs.
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