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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 37 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 2 in F major, Op 22
1906; performed by Lionel Tertis and York Bowen at the Royal Academy of Music on 3 Feburary 1906; published by Schott in 1911

Allegro assai  [10'34]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Lionel Tertis and York Bowen capitalized on their early success, and during 1906 they had continued presenting their series at the Aeolian Hall. It was at another of these concerts, on 26 February, that they played Bowen’s Viola Sonata No 2 in F major Op 22, which must have been written very soon after the first viola sonata. In fact Tertis and the composer had already presented the new sonata at the RAM three weeks before, on 3 February. By now Bowen had the advantage of having been involved in public performance of the major works of the viola repertoire, accompanying one of the leading virtuosi of his day, and so he had first-hand experience of both the music of his contemporaries and what were then the standard works. In particular they performed the two sonatas that Brahms had written for clarinet or viola (Op 120). Tertis and Bowen played Bowen’s new sonata again on 27 May 1907, but it was not published until 1911 (like the first, by Schott), with the viola part edited and fingered by Tertis.

In the first movement Bowen again marks an exposition repeat. With its lilting 3/4 theme here Bowen is half-way to writing salon music, which he also did in his Suite for violin and piano written soon after. This first subject reappears little changed throughout the movement. Bowen’s big-boned piano writing is more than an accompaniment, propelling the music to create the passionate romantic episodes and signalling the various changes of mood, before the opening theme returns for the quiet end.

The slow movement is in striking contrast to the light-hearted good spirits of the outer movements. The pensive opening of this passionate and tragic movement is marked con molto espressione, and the low opening phrase was clearly intended to exploit Tertis’s powerful C string, but is then extended in a mood of quiet resignation, building higher and higher before returning to a low C sharp. A rippling piano accompaniment signals the middle section and provides the background for the muted viola to sing high above the stave in the treble clef, but the mute is soon removed as the soloist builds the agitated middle section. Soon the spectral mood of the opening returns and grows again to a passionate climax, before the remarkable Tranquillo closing section in which the soloist sings in a haunted tone.

The third movement could not be more of a contrast. One can imagine that Tertis has asked for a piece to show off his abilities, and this movement has the character of a succession of virtuoso salon pieces, with touched-in high notes in the manner of a violin encore, high running passagework, harmonics, pizzicato, quadrupal stopping, all contrasted with singing legato interludes.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2008

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