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Bowen: Phantasy Quintet, Piano Trios… / Gould Piano Trio

Bowen / Gould Piano Trio
Release Date: 02/25/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10805   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  York Bowen
Performer:  Robert PlaneBenjamin FrithMia CooperDavid Adams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BOWEN Clarinet Sonata 1. Rhapsody Trio . Piano Trio in d. Phantasy Quintet. 2 Piano Trio in e Robert Plane ( 1 cl, 2 bs cl); Gould Pn Tr; 1 Benjamin Frith (pn); 2 Mia Cooper (vn); Read more class="SUPER12">2 David Adams (va) CHANDOS 10805 (78:29)

The superbly crafted and imaginative music of York Bowen is given lively and imaginative performances here by the Gould Piano Trio (whose individual members are also heard separately in the various other pieces on this disc) with clarinetist Robert Plane. I was previously familiar with the Rhapsody Trio and Phantasy Quintet, but not with the clarinet sonata or the other two piano trios given here (one with an opus number of 118, the other an early, unfinished sketch from 1900 when the composer was only 16 years old). For those who have heard Bowen’s music—and like it (not necessarily the same people)—the excellence of his scores will need little introduction. For those who have not yet heard him, his music, though resolutely tonal and in a pre-Stravinsky and pre-serial style, is highly imaginative and extremely well developed. Bowen seemed incapable of writing anything banal, a quality that attracted even the normally churlish Kaikhosru Sorabji, who hailed his writing for piano as being among the very finest of his time (this was in the 1930s and 40s, by which point most of the world had stopped paying attention to Bowen). His music is “out there” in terms of sheer invention and imagination; he could create superb moods, and was often much better than such contemporaries as Vaughan Williams in sustaining them. I think that, perhaps, one reason why Bowen was marginalized (aside from his penchant for tonality) was the fact that he only wrote for piano, either alone or in chamber music situations and three concertos.

Despite Chandos’s penchant for overly roomy sonics, this is a splendid disc, and in fact the piano is (thankfully, since it is the dominant voice in all of these works) well miked. This gives these performances bite and drive when called for, yet the spaciousness is there when atmosphere is required. And, frankly, I cannot say enough about the Gould Trio or their performances of this music. They are exultant, soaring, absolutely committed to bringing out the best in these scores and usually succeeding. I especially liked the “bite” of Lucy Gould’s violin in the Rhapsody Trio ; she manages to plunge the very soul of the music, and yet her tone never becomes shrill but, rather, sinks into a plangent mid-range beauty much like the playing of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Just listen, for instance, to the way this trio ebbs and flows in their presentation of the music; it practically takes wing and flies. Truthfully, it’s even better than the groundbreaking recording (on the Dutton label) by violinist Krysia Osostowicz, cellist Jane Salmon, and pianist Michael Dussek, and no, that is not intended as a slur on the latter trio’s abilities. The Gould Trio quite simply blows them away, but only because there is now a tradition for playing York Bowen while, in Osostowicz’s time, it was fairly new material to younger musicians.

As it turns out, the early, unfinished piano trio from 1900 (of which this is the premiere recording) is a very fine piece. You’d have a difficult time guessing that it was written by a 16-year-old composition/piano student, so strong is its form and imaginative in scope, and once again the Gould Trio plays it with verve and style. As excellent as the performance of the Rhapsody Trio was, this version of the Phantasy Quintet is nearly as good, with bass clarinetist Plane digging deep into the sound of his instrument to contrast with and complement the four strings (Lucy Gould and Alice Neary from the trio along with guest violinist Mia Cooper and violist David Adams), creating tremendous atmosphere. In the second half of the piece, when the music becomes more energetic, this group is more than adequate for the challenge. They are, again, transcendent in their playing. The late (1946) piano trio is one of his greatest works, a subtly interwoven and tightly organic piece that repays close attention, and here the Gould Trio manages to combine lyrical subtlety with their usual exuberant energy.

If you have ever wondered about Bowen’s music but never previously taken the plunge, or if you have heard Bowen’s music previously and wondered what all the fuss was about, this is the disc that will “sell” you on it. Ten stars, easily.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 109 by York Bowen
Performer:  Robert Plane (Clarinet), Benjamin Frith (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
Date of Recording: 04/29/2013 
Venue:  Champs Hill Music Room, West Sussex 
Length: 15 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Rhapsody Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 80 by York Bowen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; England 
Date of Recording: 05/01/2013 
Venue:  Champs Hill Music Room, West Sussex 
Length: 13 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Piano Trio in D minor (unfinished) by York Bowen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1900s 
Date of Recording: 05/01/2013 
Venue:  Champs Hill Music Room, West Sussex 
Length: 11 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Phantasy-Quintet, for bass clarinet & string quartet, Op. 93 by York Bowen
Performer:  Mia Cooper (Violin), Robert Plane (Clarinet), David Adams (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Period: Modern 
Date of Recording: 01/11/2013 
Venue:  Champs Hill Music Room, West Sussex 
Length: 14 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in E minor, Op. 118 by York Bowen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
Date of Recording: 05/01/2013 
Venue:  Champs Hill Music Room, West Sussex 
Length: 23 Minutes 9 Secs. 

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