Movement 1: Allegro assai
Movement 2: Grave – Allegro – Tempo I – Tranquillo
Movement 3: Finale: Allegro giocoso
In the first movement Bowen again marks an exposition repeat. With its lilting 3/4 theme here Bowen is half-way to writing salon music, which he also did in his Suite for violin and piano written soon after. This first subject reappears little changed throughout the movement. Bowen’s big-boned piano writing is more than an accompaniment, propelling the music to create the passionate romantic episodes and signalling the various changes of mood, before the opening theme returns for the quiet end.
The slow movement is in striking contrast to the light-hearted good spirits of the outer movements. The pensive opening of this passionate and tragic movement is marked con molto espressione, and the low opening phrase was clearly intended to exploit Tertis’s powerful C string, but is then extended in a mood of quiet resignation, building higher and higher before returning to a low C sharp. A rippling piano accompaniment signals the middle section and provides the background for the muted viola to sing high above the stave in the treble clef, but the mute is soon removed as the soloist builds the agitated middle section. Soon the spectral mood of the opening returns and grows again to a passionate climax, before the remarkable Tranquillo closing section in which the soloist sings in a haunted tone.
The third movement could not be more of a contrast. One can imagine that Tertis has asked for a piece to show off his abilities, and this movement has the character of a succession of virtuoso salon pieces, with touched-in high notes in the manner of a violin encore, high running passagework, harmonics, pizzicato, quadrupal stopping, all contrasted with singing legato interludes.
from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2008