Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andante sostenuto
Movement 3: Allegro molto
The ternary second movement recalls some of Chopin’s more songful nocturnes or impromptus, though its cadential patterns again suggest MacDowell. A central Poco agitato leads to a gentle restatement of the main theme at the top of the left hand, accompanied by undulating chordal triplet figuration in the right. A slightly contrived and overblown climax intervenes before the halcyon ending. Ironically, perhaps, the distinguished British pianist Hamish Milne recalls Bowen as having later made no secret of an antipathy towards Liszt, and yet a weakness for ‘obligatory’ climaxes within otherwise soberly restrained statements is a peculiarly Lisztian trait.
The finale hints at the same sources of inspiration, but this time it is the corresponding movement from the little-known First Sonata of Chopin (Op 4) that comes to mind. A chordal first subject leads to a canonically conceived contrasting theme. The strength of Classicism’s hold is evident in Bowen’s choice of a repeated exposition even in this context. The eventual recapitulation leads unexpectedly to an Allegro con fuoco return of the opening movement, still resolutely in the minor mode and concluding with a terse concentration at odds with certain other passages of the work.
from notes by Francis Pott © 2009