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Hyperion Records

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Black piano (2004) by Lincoln Seligman (b1950)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67751/2
Recording details: August 2008
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2009
Total duration: 25 minutes 27 seconds

'No better example of Hyperion's founding principles could be imagined than this disc of three premiere recordings contributing to the first survey of the complete sonatas by an unjustly neglected composer … Danny Driver is the ideal advocate for this glorious music, playing with razor-sharp articulation and a rich, organ-like sonority … Driver is an artist who is able to transcend the sterile surrounds of the studio and give 'real' performances, an early Award nominee for next year' (Gramophone)

‘Danny Driver plays the canon of six sonatas with a blend of warmth, bravura, expressive sensibility and verve … Driver’s superb, astute performances are convincing testimonies to Bowen assimilating stimuli with a potent imagination of his own’ (The Daily Telegraph)

'Scintillating demands amply accomplished by Driver, whose light filigree passagework is sensationally clear … the Fifth is a veritable tour de force, Bowen at his best … Francis Pott's programme notes are ideal … Driver's virtuosity and technical finesse is remarkable' (International Record Review)

'This fine sonata survey from Danny Driver, whom readers may recall from his oustanding Hyperion coupling of York Bowen's Third and Fourth Piano Concertos … all are demanding, rewarding scores that Driver despatches with captivating virtuosity' (Classic FM Magazine)

'With performances such as these a successful future for Danny Driver seems assured. This young soloist plays with sympathy and dedication, buoyancy and freshness. This is a splendid set from Hyperion that should broaden York Bowen’s appeal still further. Francis Pott has as usual done a fine job with the booklet essay. Beautifully recorded by the Hyperion engineers at the Henry Wood Hall with warmth and considerable clarity' (MusicWeb International)

'All this music here is played quite wonderfully by Danny Driver—with bravura, sensitivity and insightful commitment, a labour of love; with tangible and vivid recorded sound and informative documentation, this release can be heartily recommended' (

Piano Sonata No 1 in B minor, Op 6
privately published in 1902 and inscribed 'Dinham Blyth'; dedicated to Claude Gascoigne

Larghetto  [5'30]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Sonata No 1 in B minor Op 6 was privately published in 1902 (the edition is listed as ‘Dinham Blyth’), probably with the financial support of Bowen senior, who made a scholarship endowment to the RAM when his son graduated. The Sonata was inscribed to Claude Gascoigne, an Academy contemporary with whom Bowen played two-piano music. Since the unpublished Second Sonata is dated 1901 on its final page, possibly the gestation processes of these two works overlapped, though Bowen’s manuscript unequivocally presents the C sharp minor Sonata as No 2, opus 9.

After a performance of the B minor Sonata at St James’s Hall, The Standard diagnosed the influence of Grieg, a curious verdict until one compares the work specifically with the Norwegian composer’s early E minor Sonata. Both works launch without preamble into a purposeful theme, compact in rhythmic structure but wide-ranging in pitch. There the resemblance debatably ends and one becomes aware of Bowen’s pianistic debt to Chopin, whose own B minor Sonata seems acknowledged here in the rhythmic and textural characteristics of the outer movements. Given Bowen’s youth at the time, it is unsurprising to find a certain metrical regularity in his principal subjects, while in the conventionally structured opening movement a tendency to leaven expansive rhetoric with occasional quasi-balletic gestures gives rise to a central section with more divertissement than cumulative development about it. Nonetheless, this is an ambitious work, with a grand exposition repeated in full and a second subject already deploying one or two oblique modulations seemingly learnt from Strauss.

The second movement displays a certain artless simplicity, still detectable two decades later in the slow movement of the Fifth Sonata and reminiscent of short mood pictures by the American composer Edward MacDowell (1860–1908). An expansive central passage leads conventionally back to the mood of the opening, but the final stages are much abbreviated. The ensuing Tempo di Minuetto is slight and short-lived, combining attractive modality with a metrical regularity which respects the origins of such movements in actual dance, albeit at a faster speed. The finale mirrors the tonal design of the first movement, again featuring conventional sonata form and a songfully Chopin-like second subject in the relative major key. The printed appearance of this music strongly suggests immersion in the Chopin already cited, as does a pianistically muscular coda in the tonic major key.

from notes by Francis Pott © 2009

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