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Violin Sonata in B minor, Op 7
June 1902

'Bowen: The complete works for violin and piano' (CDA67991/2)
Bowen: The complete works for violin and piano
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Movement 1: Largo Ė Andante con moto
Movement 2: Allegro assai

Violin Sonata in B minor, Op 7
The manuscript of the unpublished Violin Sonata in B minor Op 7 records June 1902 as its completion date. Bowen’s first two piano sonatas were written at around the same time, with No 1 appearing in print in 1902 as his opus 6—although the manuscript of so-called ‘No 2’ is dated 1901. The first Piano Sonata is in the same key as this early Violin Sonata, and there are other common elements. However, the sonata for piano is an expansive four-movement conception, owing much to its B minor forerunner by Chopin, while the Violin Sonata consists only of a pair of contrasted movements, and may even be the compressed remnant of some larger initial conception. That much is suggested by the curious tonal scheme of the first movement, which moves early to D major and then, to all intents and purposes, stays there. A fourth movement would presumably transplant some of this material to B major, ending the work in a transformed version of the home key. Instead, Bowen’s second movement attempts the difficult task of unifying a driving scherzo with recurrences of the first movement’s broad main theme (seemingly borrowed unawares from Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture). Whether he set out initially to do this or to write a conventional scherzo and slow movement, deferring completion of a tonal scheme until the end of a fourth movement, remains uncertain. A few changes of key in the scherzo do sound provisional and undeniably get into tight corners. An air of unfinished business hovers; yet the ardour and ambition of this precocious effort must be applauded, likewise the innate fluency of Bowen’s writing for both instruments. Noteworthy too is the work’s introduction, with its hints of the Vorspiel from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

from notes by Francis Pott © 2013

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