Bowen’s virtuosic and romantic Phantasy
in F major Op 54, is dated 31 May 1918. Tertis gave the premiere of this single-movement work soon after the armistice, at Wigmore Hall on 6 December, but Bowen was ill and the piano was played by Samuel Liddle. Later it was taken up by the French viola player Paul-Louis Neuberth, whose performance at Wigmore Hall in London at the end of October 1924 was erroneously announced as the premiere. Like almost all Bowen’s viola music it was written for Lionel Tertis, and it again shows what a amazing virtuoso he must have been in his prime. Bowen’s well-constructed music can easily bed down into a bland, somewhat Brahmsian contentment, and it needed Tertis’s fire to bring it to life. Even so, this music is more technically difficult than its approachable surface sometimes suggests, and particularly when Bowen was in thrall to Tertis he was uninhibited by limitations of technique.
The F major Phantasy was a Cobbett prize-winner in the year of its composition, 1918. Once again Bowen’s typical arch-structure creates an extended single movement, with the Poco adagio slow section presenting the composer’s big tune before the Allegro vivo of his vigorous finale, making a work that is comparable in scale to Bowen’s sonatas in his viola output.
from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2008