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Bowen: Piano Works Vol 4 / Celis

Bowen / Celis
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10593   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



BOWEN Partita. Suite Mignonne . Third Suite. 3 Sketches. Sonatina. 3 Novelettes. Polonaise , op. 26/2. A Whim Joop Celis (pn) CHANDOS 10593 (79:35)


The name York Bowen is probably unfamiliar to all but a handful of Fanfare readers, yet this English composer, pianist, violist, organist, horn player, and Read more teacher enjoyed a formidable reputation during the early years of the 20th century. Saint-Saëns called him “the most remarkable of the young British composers,” an opinion shared by others. Many of his works were dedicated to and/or performed by leading musicians of the age, including Fritz Kreisler, Joseph Szigeti, Efrem Zimbalist, Dennis Brain, Leon Goossens, and Lionel Tertis. But changing times left Bowen behind, and after World War I his star faded. Most of his music remains unpublished, and outside of England performances have been rare. Not until the late 20th century did a revival of interest begin, sparked in part by the publication of Monica Watson’s monograph York Bowen: A Centenary Tribute (Thames, London, 1984) and the efforts of the York Bowen Society (yorkbowen.co.uk).


Although Bowen is sometimes referred to as “the English Rachmaninoff” for his deeply romantic streak, John Lindsey (a member of the York Bowen Society) finds him to be more of an English Chopin, “a composer with whom Bowen was a kindred spirit. It is Bowen’s solo piano music that lifts him to the position of a grand master.” Among other achievements, Bowen the pianist is credited with having made the first-ever recording of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto in 1926. His catalog of some 160 compositions includes three symphonies, four piano concertos, many chamber works and much piano music, including six sonatas and a series of 24 preludes in all major and minor keys. No less a label than Chandos has seen fit to entrust a Dutch pianist, Joop Celis, with the task of recording all of Bowen’s solo piano compositions. The series is now up to Volume 4 (Volumes 2 and 3 were reviewed in Fanfare 31:1 and 32:6).


Everything in Volume 4 is a world premiere recording except for the Partita and one movement of the Suite Mignonne . The generous, 80-minute program consists of six multimovement works plus two independent pieces, a polonaise and the two-minute throwaway Whim . The repertoire comes from two widely spaced periods in Bowen’s long career: the first years of the 20th century and 1949–60 although, as Robert Matthew-Walker points out in his highly informative notes, “despite the varying nature of the provenance of these works, the music throughout has an impressive consistency of style.”


The Partita makes a strong impression with the forceful opening of its prelude. This is followed by four stylized dance pieces that might almost be 20th-century transformations of numbers from a Bach suite as filtered through the alembic of Debussian harmony. (The Children’s Corner suite comes readily to mind, as does some of Griffes’s music.) Whimsy, delicacy, pointilist clarity and a sure feeling for structure inform each of the short movements. Bowen knows instinctively just when to stop. Not one piece outstays its welcome. The music is substantial enough to constitute pride of place in a recital, while individual movements would make delectable encores.


The longest single movement is the 10-minute Polonaise. Joop Celis masters its formidable technical demands but underplays the music’s characteristic dance rhythms, thus vitiating its spirit as well. (One would love to have heard Rubinstein have a go at it.) Otherwise, though, Celis brings to Bowen’s music loving caresses, a wealth of dynamic nuances, a full palette of colors, a sure sense of rubato and playful touches. A thoroughly delightful disc. I for one look forward to the continuation of Celis’s Bowen project.


FANFARE: Robert Markow
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Works on This Recording

1.
A Whim, Op. 19, no 2 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
2.
Partita for Piano, Op. 156 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; England 
3.
Sonatina, Op. 144 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
4.
Suite no 3, Op. 38 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
5.
Suite Mignonne, Op. 39 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; England 
6.
Sketches (3) for Piano, Op. 43 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
7.
Novelettes (3) for Piano, Op. 124 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
8.
Polonaise in F sharp major, Op. 26 no 2 by York Bowen
Performer:  Joop Celis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 

Sound Samples

Partita, Op. 156: I. Prelude: Moderato
Partita, Op. 156: II. Gavotte: Allegretto grazioso
Partita, Op. 156: III. Sarabande: Andante tranquillo
Partita, Op. 156: IV. Minuet: Allegretto grazioso
Partita, Op. 156: V. Gigue: Allegro vivace
Suite for Piano No. 4, Op. 39, "Suite Mignonne": I. Prelude: Moderato
Suite for Piano No. 4, Op. 39, "Suite Mignonne": II. Valse: Un poco sostenuto
Suite for Piano No. 4, Op. 39, "Suite Mignonne": III. Moto perpetuo (Finale): Veloce e leggiero
Suite for Piano No. 3, op. 38: I. Allegro: Allegro con spirito
Suite for Piano No. 3, op. 38: II. Intermezzo: Andante cantabile
Suite for Piano No. 3, op. 38: III. Scherzo: Allegro vivo
Suite for Piano No. 3, op. 38: IV. Valse-reverie: Poco lento e rubato
Suite for Piano No. 3, op. 38: V. Toccata (Finale): Allegro vivo (ma non troppo)
3 Sketches for Piano, Op. 43: I. Andante con moto
3 Sketches for Piano, Op. 43: II. Andantino grazioso
3 Sketches for Piano, Op. 43: III. Andante semplice
Piano Sonatina in C major, Op. 144: I. Allegro e semplice
Piano Sonatina in C major, Op. 144: II. Andante espressivo
Piano Sonatina in C major, Op. 144: III. Finale: Allegro assai e giocoso
3 Novelettes, Op. 124: No. 1. Andantino grazioso
3 Novelettes, Op. 124: No. 2. Allegro maestoso - Largamente - Animato
3 Novelettes, Op. 124: No. 3. Andantino espressivo - Ben sostenuto - A tempo
Polonaise in F Sharp Major, Op. 26, No. 2
A Whim, Op. 19, No. 2

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