Bowen: Complete Works for Violin and Piano

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LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bowen: Complete Works for Violin and Piano
WORKS: Complete Works for Violin and Piano: Violin Sonatas, Opp. 7 & 112; Suite in D minor; Allegretto, etc
PERFORMER: Chloé Hanslip (violin), Danny Driver (piano)


This release is especially recommended to listeners who may feel they’ve heard enough of the characterless prolixity into which York Bowen’s fluent piano technique so often led him. He was also a fine violist, and his in-house understanding of string playing is much in evidence here: one idiomatic opportunity after another is seized on by Chloë Hanslip with panache, poise, and laser-like accuracy.

The best music comes first. Outwardly, Bowen’s idiom changed so little down the years that his E minor Violin Sonata, composed in 1945, could almost have been written 30 years earlier. The difference, as Francis Pott points out in his booklet notes, is that Bowen’s later style increasingly tends to be ‘expansive in manner, not length’. It could also sidestep into interesting regions: the Sonata’s finale operates deftly in Ravel territory, as does the Allegretto of 1940. The Melody for the G string of 1923 conjures something memorable from what might seem like an over-obvious post‑Romantic manner. And the Serenade and Valse harmonique, written just after Bowen’s military band service in the First World War, show that this streak of sharp‑focus lyricism was present in his music much earlier.

My only reservation about these excellent performances concerns Danny Driver’s accompaniments: superbly fluent and supportive, they’re also perhaps a touch more self-effacing than they need be.


Malcolm Hayes