Bowen: Piano Sonata No. 6; 24 Preludes, Op. 102; Rêverie, Op. 86

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COMPOSERS: Bowen
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Bowen Piano Works
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 6; 24 Preludes, Op. 102; Rêverie, Op. 86
PERFORMER: Joop Celis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10277
York Bowen was a celebrated pianist (the first ever to record the Beethoven Fourth Concerto) and a prolific composer, chiefly for the piano, in a vein of Romanticism that remained unaltered throughout his long career. The Sixth Sonata, his last composition before his death in 1961 aged 77, could have been written decades earlier. The 24 Preludes, composed in the 1930s, similarly echo Rachmaninov above all, with touches of Chopin but nothing more modern than Debussy. Their modest forms perhaps suit Bowen better than the long haul of the sonata; and they certainly show a formidable command of keyboard techniques, textures and colours.

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The Dutch pianist Joop Celis plays with accuracy (some minor alterations to the text of the Preludes apparently follow the example of Bowen’s own performances) and clarity even in some very full textures. But he seems to lack the last ounce of Romantic high style, and he rarely achieves a really delicate pianissimo. This, though, may partly be due to the unusually hard quality of the recording. Recommendable chiefly to piano enthusiasts. Anthony Burton