Next week (February 15) I start playing York Bowen's 2nd Ballade. I figured since Bowen is so little known, and since I'm also playing his 5th Sonata next season, it might be nice to write a little about him.

He was born in 1884 in England and made a rather important career as a pianist and composer. He studied with Tobias Matthay at the Royal Academy of Music and became a professor (piano) at that institution at the age of 25. Despite the success of his compositions during his lifetime, since his death in 1961, most of it has fallen out of print and is nowadays relatively hard to get ahold of.

Bowen wrote a great deal for the piano and obviously loved the instrument. His writing is always interesting, tonal, yet with a wonderful chromatic spice and harmonic inventiveness that should be better appreciated.

Approaching his composing from a purely pianistic standpoint, this is the ultimate music for pianists. It fits the hand beautifully, and exploits the instrument to the fullest. A sensitive performance, with the appropriate colors and nuances will surely have audiences saying "Where has this music been?" In this respect, his piano music is comparable to that of Nikolai Medtner; under-appreciated, masterful writing.

If you happen to make it to one of the recitals where I'm playing some of this music, I hope you'll enjoy hearing it. This is special, special stuff.

AuthorChad R. Bowles
CategoriesConcert Life