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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: 14 minutes 40 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 6 in B flat minor, Op 160
1961; probably Bowen's final work

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Sonata No 6 in B flat minor Op 160 (1961) is Bowen’s final listed opus and appears to have been his final work, despite the many surviving compositions in manuscript. It suggests neither waning vigour nor valediction: indeed, despite its brooding opening (closely related to the B minor Prelude Op 102 No 24 and the Fantasia Op 132), it might be the work of an energetic young man, the last movement especially. Though plagued by anxiety over the health of his wife (who was to outlive him by six years), Bowen was active and purposeful to the last.

In itself, the Sonata’s key immediately suggests affinity to Rachmaninov’s popular Second Sonata, though also to Balakirev (who particularly favoured B flat minor) and Medtner (his Sonata Romantica Op 53 No 1). However, by now the assimilation of harmonic thinking from Debussy, Strauss, Delius and Rachmaninov (to name but a few) is complete and, through lengthy osmosis, individual. No other British composer was writing works of such unbridled but idiomatic virtuosity for the piano either in 1961 or (with the arguable exception of William Baines) half a century earlier. It remains easy to see why Bowen suffered such neglect, especially in the more ascetic, utilitarian artistic climate following his death, but why in his youth he was lauded by the elderly Saint-Saëns as a kindred spirit.

The first movement broadly matches comments already made about the Fifth Sonata. Roughly speaking, in weight and length it balances the ensuing two movements together: a wistfully introspective meditation in which, uncharacteristically, Bowen seems to approach the twilit harmonic world of the mature Frank Bridge, and a headlong Toccata. The latter avoids the unrelieved moto perpetuo approach of many precedents, including Bowen’s own fine example, Op 155 (recorded by Stephen Hough on Hyperion CDA66838), of which passing hints may, however, be heard in the Sonata’s first movement. Here, pyrotechnics are deployed with the lightest of nonchalant humoresque touches, embracing kaleidoscopic variety of colour, gesture and effect (but also impressive textural economy) to form a true showpiece of compositional—as well as performing—virtuosity. Only in the final stages does the wise old hand allow another burst of grandioso chordal weight to intervene. A perfect chose en soi, the movement merits widespread performance on its own as well as in context.

from notes by Francis Pott © 2009

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