Bowen: Clarinet Sonata

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LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Bowen: Clarinet Sonata
WORKS: Clarinet Sonata, Op. 109; Rhapsody Trio, Op. 80; Piano Trio in D minor (unfinished); Phantasy Quintet, Op. 93; Piano Trio, Op. 118
PERFORMER: Robert Plane (clarinet/bass clarinet); Gould Piano Trio, Mia Cooper (violin), David Adams (viola)


York Bowen (1884-1961) exploded on to the British musical scene at the start of the 20th century, as pianist and composer. A student Trio movement, unfinished but edited by the Gould Trio for its premiere recording, shows him already a fluent exponent of the relaxed salon style. Throughout his career, he remained loyal to the musical language prevalent in his youth – as witness the Brahmsian Clarinet Sonata of 1943, or the E minor Trio of 1945 with its echoes of Rachmaninov. But his experiments with single-movement forms sometimes prompted a greater adventurousness, as in the 1926 Rhapsody Trio and the Phantasy Quintet of c1933 for the unique, and adeptly handled, combination of bass clarinet and string quartet.

The Gould Piano Trio, the outstanding clarinettist Robert Plane and their colleagues, well recorded, play with fine teamwork and a strong feeling for Bowen’s idiom. In the Clarinet Sonata and the two completed Trios, this issue faces competition from two Dutton Epoch discs by Endymion which offer clearer piano textures and elegant string phrasing, but without the passionate urgency on display here. Overall, this is a valuable introduction to a formidably well equipped, if doggedly conservative, late Romantic composer.


Anthony Burton