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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: 20 minutes 7 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' (ClassicalSource.com)

Piano Sonata No 3 in D minor, Op 12
composer
August 1912

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Although one could make a credible case for the first three sonatas as successive attempts to realize a single underlying intention, the Piano Sonata No 3 in D minor Op 12 (dated August 1912 in the manuscript) demonstrates a significant advance over its predecessors. Fondness for compound duple time is carried over from the finale of No 1 and first movement of No 2, but, although there is still no shortage of virtuosity, this music achieves greater expressive depth. A perceptible narrative quality now recalls another cornerstone of Chopin’s output in this time signature, his Ballades. The twenty-eight-year-old Bowen succeeds remarkably in sustaining a driving momentum across an imposing span of music while conjuring telling contrasts between the moods of its principal subjects (one restlessly impatient, the other placidly songful). The harmonic language soon suggests a shrewdly selective awareness of Debussy, evidenced by an elliptical shift into C major some twenty-two bars into the movement, at once subtle in conception and vivid in effect. The time signature’s regularity heightens a couple of telling rhythmic displacements in the hectic coda before another terse conclusion.

The second movement, a faintly enigmatic idyll in the key of F and a more extended statement than its counterparts in the earlier works, marks the true onset of a characteristic personal voice. Its opening articulation of the tonic triad leads into a songful ternary movement. A Poco mosso D major central section rises to an opulent but, this time, admirably restrained climactic passage. Here Bowen’s true purpose is to place quiet focus on the progressive withdrawal of the recapitulatory final section. Its later stages suggest a possible source of inspiration for Month’s Mind, one of John Ireland’s more autumnal and valedictory mood pictures for piano solo, written and published in 1935. Hints of the first movement’s harmonic character lend added unity to the unfolding work. The closing bars of this movement feature a striking momentary migration towards A major, opening an abrupt window onto a hitherto unsuspected interior landscape and then quietly closing it again, as in the last of Schubert’s Moments musicaux. By 1912 Bowen’s first three piano concertos and his Viola Concerto lay behind him. The decade since the earlier piano sonatas therefore represents a considerable advance in technical and poetic assurance. This does not wholly prevent the finale from falling a little below the achievement of the preceding movements (hardly a new problem in compositional history): its barnstorming pianism fails wholly to dissemble a certain monotony of harmonic pacing, and one senses that this is something the older Bowen was to manage better, because on a more concentrated scale, in the 24 Preludes (completed before the outbreak of the Second World War but published in 1950) which together constitute arguably his most celebrated work.

from notes by Francis Pott © 2009

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