Movement 1: Allegro ma non troppo
Movement 2: Andante cantabile
Movement 3: Allegro molto con fuoco
The second movement, a faintly enigmatic idyll in the key of F and a more extended statement than its counterparts in the earlier works, marks the true onset of a characteristic personal voice. Its opening articulation of the tonic triad leads into a songful ternary movement. A Poco mosso D major central section rises to an opulent but, this time, admirably restrained climactic passage. Here Bowen’s true purpose is to place quiet focus on the progressive withdrawal of the recapitulatory final section. Its later stages suggest a possible source of inspiration for Month’s Mind, one of John Ireland’s more autumnal and valedictory mood pictures for piano solo, written and published in 1935. Hints of the first movement’s harmonic character lend added unity to the unfolding work. The closing bars of this movement feature a striking momentary migration towards A major, opening an abrupt window onto a hitherto unsuspected interior landscape and then quietly closing it again, as in the last of Schubert’s Moments musicaux. By 1912 Bowen’s first three piano concertos and his Viola Concerto lay behind him. The decade since the earlier piano sonatas therefore represents a considerable advance in technical and poetic assurance. This does not wholly prevent the finale from falling a little below the achievement of the preceding movements (hardly a new problem in compositional history): its barnstorming pianism fails wholly to dissemble a certain monotony of harmonic pacing, and one senses that this is something the older Bowen was to manage better, because on a more concentrated scale, in the 24 Preludes (completed before the outbreak of the Second World War but published in 1950) which together constitute arguably his most celebrated work.
from notes by Francis Pott © 2009