The music of York Bowen (1884-1961) has gained a foothold in the CD catalog as more pianists discover his inventive Romantic keyboard idiom. However, Bowen himself was no mean pianist, and this first complete reissue of his 78-rpm recordings is most welcome. The collection begins with the 1925 recorded premiere of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto. Although the recording's acoustic technology renders the music's delicate orchestra/piano balances meaningless, you still can appreciate Bowen's rippling, symmetrical fingerwork (think Walter Gieseking) as well as more regimented and intonationally secure orchestral playing than that era's norm. Bowen's stylistically incongruous first-movement cadenza (a little Delius, a little Rachmaninov) is, toRead more paraphrase Arthur Loesser, pure "cream of corn."
If anything, Bowen's suave and characterful command of Beethoven's Op. 27 No. 1 sonata's first movement proves more impressive (he only recorded this one movement, unfortunately). His slightly less poised Op. 78 sonata interpretation contains interesting individual touches, such as the first movement's headlong, angular passagework, and his drawing out of the second movement's main theme.
The winged flexibility Bowen brings to the first movement of Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wien helps us better digest the music's repetitive qualities. Bowen's light and sparkling Debussy Jardins sous la pluie and Second Arabesque easily stand with the 78-era's best, while he plays four of his own short pieces with expected authority and panache.
Not everything is memorable: certain Romantic warhorses (Liszt's Eglogue, Mendelssohn's Scherzo, Rachmaninov's G minor Prelude, Chopin's Third Ballade, Second Scherzo, A-flat Op. 34 No. 1 Waltz, and C-sharp minor Op. 26 No. 1 Polonaise) fall flat in the face of competing shellac versions (Hofmann in the Chopin Waltz, Friedman in the Mendelssohn, for instance). Yet you cannot discount Bowen's fastidious articulation of inner voices in the E minor Etude, nor his effortless, feathery left-hand figurations in the G major Prelude. In sum, this is a valuable collection all around, graced by Jonathan Summer's excellent annotations plus painstaking sound restoration by Ward Marston.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
York Bowen (Piano)
Period: Classical Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1925 Length: 29 Minutes 17 Secs.
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