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Bowen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 31, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

York Bowen has a distinguished reputation as a composer and was considered to be one of Britain's finest pianists. In his day he was known as 'The English Rachmaninoff', and Saint-Saëns described him as 'the most remarkable of the young British composers'. The works of York Bowen tend to display a blend of romanticism and strong individuality, and although his influences include the likes of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky, his music is also strongly defined by textures and harmonies that are uniquely 'Bowen'. This recording presents the only two surviving symphonies by Bowen: Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2, which are performed here by the BBC Philharmonic under the exclusive Chandos artist Sir Andrew Davis.
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1
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12:07
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8:00
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10:00
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13:14
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12:21
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6:12
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
  • Composer: York Bowen
  • Audio CD (May 31, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B004SVNIH4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,388 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Camil Moujaber on October 24, 2011
Format: Audio CD
For the first reviewer, review the CD/Performances, not Amazon! I will quote a few reviews... "The recording is superb, reporting a satisfying combination of warmth and clarity. The two works have become captivating over repeated listening and are strongly recommended to all lovers of diatonic music of the early twentieth-century" (Peter Joelson - classicalsource.com). "The present release is essential listening: first, because is substantially expands our knowledge of a musician who was clearly neither an anachronism nor merely an Interesting Historical figure; second, because it is hugely enjoyable on its own terms; an third, because it is so stunningly well played and executed: hence the red-letter nomination" (Piers Burton-Page - International Record Review). "Davis and the BBC Philharmonic give both symphonies finely groomed performances" (Andrew Clements - The Guardian).
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Format: Audio CD
York Bowen was a performing musician as well as a composer and was at professional standards on the piano (he was the first pianist to record Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto), viola and French horn. His First Symphony is a student work from 1902. The music is very assured for an 18-year old with beautiful lyrical melodies. The symphony is in three movements, which was innovative for the time and requires a small orchestra. The symphony was not performed during Bowen’s lifetime and had its first in 2010.

The First Symphony is not spectacular and one feels that York Bowen is seeking to imitate the styles of older contemporaries. The music is well orchestrated, Romantic in style, with an individual voice. There is a lovely clarinet solo that opens the second movement and has some interesting melodic interplay between the soloists. The Finale, much like the prior movements, has colorful melodies, beginning with a slow melody and a brisk second subject to conclude: charming but not especially memorable.

The Second Symphony was composed in 1909, reverting to the usual four movements, when Bowen was 25 and was first performed in 1912. The music is more assured and mature than the First; it begins with a dramatic motto that leads into an energetic Allegro. The music is heroic and beautifully developed, and concluding with a powerful chord. The Lento second movement is gently lyrical with a passionate melody introduced by a horn solo, rising to a climax and returning to the quiet first melody. The Scherzo is magical with an engaging quick-silver melody. The Finale radiates good humor and energy with a triumphant melody that is developed by the orchestra, concluding with a flourish by the full orchestra.
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One day I had put on Peer Gynt, and was listening to that. I absentmindedly switched CDs after a while and went back to writing. This is the CD I had put in. Fantastic! I thought, "I don't remember this part of Peer Gynt." Then I remembered, "It's my new York Bowen CD!" Brilliant English music leaning more toward Sibelius and Grieg than Elgar or RVW. Both these symphonies date from the first quarter of the 20th Century. At $9.99 this is a steal. 4-1/2 stars. I marked it 5 as not to downgrade it, but I reserve a 1/2 star because I am sure this music will see a resurgence, and possibly better performances, but who knows? I can not fault these performances in the least. Great English orchestra with one of the great English-music conductors of this generation!
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