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Hyperion Records

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Sunrise by the Red Trees by Romy Ragan
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67651/2
Recording details: November 2007
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: July 2008
Total duration: 25 minutes 39 seconds

'Bowen's music … is full of surprises and of a harmonic language and idiom peculiarly his own … both CDs are beautifully planned … and the performances could hardly be more glowing. Bowen's writing for both instruments is more than demanding yet nothing detracts from Lawrence Power's and Simon Crawford-Phillips's enviable fluency and achievement. Once again Hyperion hits the jackpot in a much-needed revival and the sound and balance are exemplary' (Gramophone)

'Following his successful recording of Bowen's Concerto, Lawrence Power turns to this repertoire with similar technical ease, and persuasively idiomatic tempo inflections and portamenti' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The music of the hugely prolific York Bowen is enjoying something of a renaissance … his long association with England's great champion of the viola, Lionel Tertis, produced some signficant sonatas, romances and rhapsodies which see the light of day again in this recording. Lawrence Power's gorgeous dark red tone is perfect for this repertoire' (The Observer)

'What a delicious recording … the two sonatas are fully persuasive from their first notes, each blessed with a sixth sense for Bowen's overarching structure. Power pulls new colours from his instrument with irrepressible bravura, while never losing a kindliness for the more intimate moments that … are as stylistically imperative as the grander apotheoses that call to mind Rachmaninov, Chopin or Debussy … the writing is quite masterful in its alchemy of structure and emotion and the performances are exquisitely balanced, refined and mindful of the elegiac character that broadly underpins the work … with music-making of this calibre, who can predict the summit of York Bowen's renewed celebrity? Bravo!' (International Record Review)

'All the pieces show Bowen's love of the instrument's capacity to unfold long-limbed, rhapsodic melodies … Lawrence Power's richly expressive moulding of them is a rare treat in itself' (The Guardian)

'The two viola sonatas of 1905 and 1906 are clearly inspired by the romantic style of Brahms's late sonatas for clarinet and viola. They are worthy successors, at least when played with the sumptuous tone, passionate convinction and supreme technical address that Power lavishes on them here. Even finer are the two single-movement pieces … Crawford-Phillips relishes the bravura of Bowen's writing for the piano in this superbly executed set, unlikely to be equalled very soon' (The Sunday Times)

'Power, the first British winner of the William Primrose International Viola Competition, now returns to this cherishable area of the repertoire with equally stunning results. Accompanied by Crawford-Phillips, Lawrence's fabulous combination of tonal seductiveness and technical wizardry works wonders in the bold expressive outlines of the two sonatas. Yet it is the heart-warming, stand-alone pieces (many recorded here for the first time) … that make this release truly indispensable. Another Hyperion winner' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Violist Lawrence Power and pianist Simon Crawford-Phillips touch the nerve centers of this music and convey its subtle flavors and fragrances. The recording is up to Hyperion’s high standard' (Fanfare, USA)

'The viola … has no better exponent than Lawrence Power … we must be very grateful that his music is now in wide circulation again … a real discovery' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'Lawrence Power, surely one of the finest viola players of today, and Simon Crawford-Phillips play magnificently and as one in this excellent survey of Bowen’s works for viola and piano. Hyperion’s recording, made at Potton Hall, is outstanding, and the set is recommended without reservation' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'Composers whose rich romanticism was out of favour among 20th-century pundits who favoured angular austerity are finally receiving their due. Bowen believed the viola sounded more attractive than the violin and has a persuasive advocate in Power' (Classical Music)

Viola Sonata No 1 in C minor, Op 18
composer
1905; first performed by Lionel Tertis and Bowen at the Aeolian Hall, London, on 19 May 1905

Allegro moderato  [10'22]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The two viola sonatas are examples of the remarkable succession of works that Bowen produced while still a student, and soon afterwards. In fact he was only twenty when he wrote the Viola Sonata No 1 in C minor Op 18 (1905). At this time Lionel Tertis had started a series of London recitals of viola music at which he was regularly accompanied by Bowen, a series that continued for several years. The sonata was first performed by Tertis and Bowen at London’s Aeolian Hall on 19 May 1905. It appeared again on 30 October 1906, and then in Berlin in 1907 when Tertis, Bowen and the work were all enthusiastically received.

This is the first of Bowen’s many instrumental sonatas, and with its traditional exposition repeat it sets the pattern of the ‘well-made’ work which he would follow all his life. To this renewal of an existing idiom Bowen brings a personal voice and authority, especially noticeable in a viola sonata. While some listeners at the time might have looked to Brahms’s then new sonatas for the composer’s model, in 1905 Bowen’s music must have struck many people as a fresh breeze blowing through the British music of the time.

The wide-spanning first movement, lasting more than ten minutes, clearly announces a composer who has arrived. With the busy and idiomatic piano part and the viola part’s singing melody, drama, and distinctive passagework (which was at first thought to be uncharacteristic of the instrument), in this sonata Bowen provided a model for Tertis’s other young collaborators—Benjamin Dale and Arnold Bax. Bowen’s first subject opens with a questioning dotted motif which, at first reflective and questioning, soon becomes dramatic and challenging, especially when running on with flashing semiquavers. The second subject, marked molto espressivo, is lyrical and expansive. The music eventually rises to a substantial climax before the affecting final nine bars, where the opening theme returns, all passion spent, and the music ends on a dying fall.

The slow movement is basically ternary in shape, with a middle section in which the viola sings fervently over rippling piano figurations. The movement is notable for its passionate expression markings—molto espressivo at the outset, and soon appassionato—yet this is a remarkably well-bred passion and the music maintains a poise which rather tempers the emotion the composer seems to be feeling.

The finale is generally carefree, and certainly Tertis referred to the sonata as ‘a vivacious and light-hearted work’. Bowen writes a powerful introduction, though this is soon followed by happy music alternating spirited and dancing passages with typical lyrical invention. Eventually the music reaches a portentous episode when, over pounding sustained chords in the piano, the viola is instructed to summon up all possible tone molto vibrato. Just when we are thinking the music is to end in tragedy after all, the viola’s running semi-quavers announce the throw-away closing bars.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2008

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