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Hyperion Records

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Evening Haymaking (1859) by John Linnell (1792-1882)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67546
Recording details: November 2004
Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: May 2005
Total duration: 35 minutes 48 seconds

'This new performance [Bowen] is beyond criticism … the performance [Forsyth] is everything one could desire and the recording is wonderfully ripe and glowing to match. A fascinating coupling: hearty congratulations to all' (Gramophone)

'The real discovery of this disc for me was Lawrence Power: a player of strength and delicacy, precision and poetry, who makes a strongest possible case for both pieces. The recording balances him well against the BBC Scottish Orchestra, conducted by the astonishingly versatile Martyn Brabbins, who sounds as involved as Power throughout both concertos' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Lawrence Power shows that he is every inch the soloist, with excellent tonal control and perfect intonation from one end of his instrument to the other' (American Record Guide)

'Power blows clean out of the water any preconceptions of the viola being some kind of lumbering violin. His effortless technical dexterity and clean-focused sound throughout the range (his upper notes are simply glorious) are also straight out of the Primrose copy-book. Even in a world overflowing with string players who can seemingly play anything at the drop of a hat, Power has that extra charismatic dimension which has the listener hanging on to his every note' (International Record Review)

'Bowen likes to unfold long, flowing melodies, to which he imparts an almost Straussian buoyancy and glow. Lawrence Power relishes these and brings wit and flair to the solo line' (The Strad)

'York Bowen's concerto is quirky and gently eccentric, full of unlikely harmonic twists and creatively stretching demands on soloist and orchestra. But the ardent and lucid Power is the real star of the disc' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Lawrence Power is a consummate artist and clearly heir to the long and honoured tradition of Tertis, Primrose, and Trampler. He produces a full, robust, and confident tone that is seething with emotion and that finds an ideal home in these neglected works … Brabbins's leadership is strong; he succeeds in getting the orchestra to produce and exquisite sound characterized by subtle nuances and the most subtle gradations of colour imaginable. If that's not enough, the icing on this delectable cake is the wonderful acoustical setting offered by Caird Hall, Dundee' (Fanfare, USA)

'Lawrence Power is an exceptional player and makes the material sound wonderful. Congratulations all round to conductor, orchestra and engineers too' (Manchester Evening News)

'It really is a joy to listen to. You'll love the finale in particular, with its delicate use of percussion and feisty exchanges between solo and orchestra. Ideally warm, well-balanced sound completes a release of truly unusual distinction' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Once again Power and Martyn Brabbins make the strongest possible advocates, and this excellently produced release enjoys splendid sound to make the most of the musical rewards of the Bowen' (ClassicalSource.com)

'Hyperion is yet again to be praised for an exceptional recording of largely unknown repertoire … the liner notes by Lewis Foreman offer keen insight into the lives of both composers and their work … the performances are consistently strong and convincing. In short, this is an exceptionally fine recording of two important viola concertos from this end of the Romantic era' (Nineteenth-Century Music Review)

Viola Concerto in C minor, Op 25
composer
editor

Allegro assai  [12'34]
Andante cantabile  [11'01]
Allegro scherzando  [12'13]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The programme for the first performance of the Viola Concerto in C minor, Op 25, commented that ‘although only in his twenty-fourth year, [Bowen] is already well known in London’. (Unfortunately Bowen’s Septet for clarinet, horn, string quartet and piano mentioned in that note is now lost.) The concerto is on a substantial scale and the Allegro assai first movement opens with the viola’s dramatically rising opening theme lightly accompanied by the strings and announced by the flutes’ and clarinets’ upward run. An orchestral tutti changes the key from C minor to D major for the viola’s warmly singing second subject accompanied by woodwind, brass and harp. Later this theme is passed from instrument to instrument before the music becomes increasingly animated, Bowen writing virtuosically and brilliantly for his mentor, Tertis. The opening returns and the movement closes with the singing viola tune.

An extended orchestral introduction opens the slow movement, after which the soloist sings plangently in the lower register accompanied bardically by the harp. This theme has a strong family resemblance to other similar tunes written for the viola by Bowen’s Academy contemporary Benjamin Dale, although perhaps showing a greater influence of Tertis, who was eager to demonstrate the sonorous effect and singing tone of his playing. At the end of this tune the clarinet plays a melodic phrase, and after the viola and orchestra have echoed each other faster music leads to the viola’s expressive middle-section theme before the opening theme returns in D flat, elaborated at even greater length.

Bowen’s third movement incorporates elements of scherzo and finale. The soloist’s scherzando opening theme is extended over eighteen bars before being passed to the clarinet and bassoon. The viola, with an upward glissando from a low G to a high harmonic, soon announces an extension of the first subject before a chromatic upward rush of solo double-stopping leads to a total change of mood as a broad and dignified tune on the strings is harmonized by the brass and taken up expressively by the viola. Bowen then combines the first and second subjects, and while the viola sings, the orchestra, especially the clarinets, play in scherzando fashion again. After a climax Bowen makes passing use of a whole-tone scale (Debussy was just becoming known to British audiences). The substantial cadenza is heralded by a reminiscence of the first movement’s coda. Doubtless the cadenza is more Tertis than Bowen. When the orchestra returns Bowen soon reminds us of the first subject of the first movement. We have come full circle, and the concerto ends brilliantly celebrating the viola as a virtuoso.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2005

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