Bowen: Viola Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Romances in D flat & in A; Fantasia for four violas; Phantasy in F; Rhapsody in G minor etc

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COMPOSERS: Bowen
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bowen
WORKS: Viola Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Romances in D flat & in A; Fantasia for four violas; Phantasy in F; Rhapsody in G minor etc
PERFORMER: Lawrence Power, Philip Dukes, James Boyd, Scott Dickinson (viola), Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67651-2

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The British late-Romantic composer and pianist York Bowen (1884-1961) wrote copiously and idiomatically for the viola – chiefly for his frequent recital partner, the pioneering virtuoso Lionel Tertis. The list of his viola-and-piano works is headed by two ambitious sonatas from his early twenties, the second including an unusually passionate slow movement. There’s also a substantial single-movement Phantasy, a flotilla of smaller pieces, and, as a faintly depressing postscript, a Rhapsody from 1955, characteristically well crafted but in exactly the same vein as his music of half a century earlier. Following his successful recording of Bowen’s Concerto, Lawrence Power turns to this repertoire with similar technical ease, and persuasively idiomatic tempo inflections and portamenti (slides). Simon Crawford-Phillips partners him sensitively and with the right touch of the grand manner when required, though the piano sound occasionally seems a little constricted. In the sonatas and Phantasy on Dutton, James Boyd and Bengt Forsberg are generally a little broader and calmer. But the Hyperion set is preferable for Power’s wider range of colours and virtuoso flair. And it includes a delightful bonus, a Fantasia for four violas which is surprisingly serious in tone and utterly beautiful in sonority. Anthony Burton