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24 Preludes in all major and minor keys, Op 102

published in 1950

The Preludes, bearing the dedication ‘To Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, 1950’, adopt the ascending key scheme used twice over by Bach in Das Wohltemperirte Clavier. Nonetheless Bowen’s line of descent is from Chopin’s Preludes and Études, comparable cycles under the latter title by Henselt, and, most directly, the Preludes and Études-Tableaux of Rachmaninov (who esteemed Henselt’s and Chopin’s Études almost equally). Rachmaninov is the most detectable and recurrent model: Bowen’s opening Prelude may enjoy a perceptibly different harmonic vocabulary but its rhythmic and pianistic resources spring clearly from the piece in the same key which opens Rachmaninov’s Thirteen Preludes, Op 32. Coincidence of key and of a particular blend of pianistic and emotional resonance is yet more obvious in the case of Bowen’s Prelude in E flat major and its counterpart, Rachmaninov’s Op 23 No 6. Significantly, perhaps, the E flat Prelude is one of Bowen’s happiest inspirations. Elsewhere, as in the C minor and G minor pieces, there is an intermittent modality much more in line with certain piano miniatures by Moeran, Ireland or Baines. These movements exhibit a welcome restraint and economy, thereby lending balance to a highly eclectic and atavistic but still imposing overall conception. The overt moments of virtuosity noticeably call forth a heightened terseness and astringency, typified in the present selection by the piece in B flat minor and by the startling ferocity of the technically demanding octave study in G sharp minor which provides a fitting conclusion to the group.

from notes by Francis Pott © 1996


Bowen: Piano Music


No 01: C major
No 02: C minor
No 06: D minor
No 07: E flat major
No 08: E flat minor
No 10: E minor
No 15: G major
No 16: G major
No 18: G sharp minor
No 19: A major
No 20: A minor
No 21: B flat major
No 22: B flat minor

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