Movement 1: Andante con moto
Movement 2: Lento espressivo
Movement 3: Presto scherzando
Neither the Second nor the Third Sonata bears a dedication, but the Short Sonata is inscribed ‘To my Wife and Son’, somewhat poignantly in view of the composer’s later estrangement from his only child, Philip. It was published first by Swan & Company in 1922 and reissued by Weinberger (as were Nos 5 and 6) in 1996.
The spaciously unhurried first movement is predominantly chordal and suggestive of a barcarolle. Reminiscent initially of Delius or Warlock, it adopts a simple ternary form, fluctuating between the tonic and relative major keys and then migrating more widely in the central passage. The recapitulation presents the major key material in D flat major before a concise, subdued ending restores the minor mode. There follows a gentle idyll in A flat major (enharmonically transformed from the dominant key of the preceding movement). Two balancing episodes feature a bell-like upper melody heard above a shimmer of chordal alternation between the hands and a drone bass. As in much of Bowen’s music, the effect is far subtler and more fastidious aurally than it appears in print. The finale is a scurrying jig, unassuming in its cheerful metrical regularity but intermittently challenging to play with the requisite fleetness. The movement is a close generic cousin to A Romp, the finale to Bowen’s Second Suite for piano and for many years (prior to the current wider revival) his best-known inspiration.
from notes by Francis Pott © 2009