Joop Celis

York Bowen: Piano Works, Vol. 4

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You might think of York Bowen as an English version of Nikolai Medtner: his piano works explore the instrument intensively within a generally rather conservative idiom that draws on various contemporaries and composers of a slightly earlier time. His career as a composer began before World War I and lasted into the 1960s but did not change drastically over that period, and individual works fall from late Romantic to post-Impressionist on the harmonic spectrum. Perhaps it is those who have had their own struggles with what Segovia called the monster that screams when you touch its teeth who appreciate Bowen the most, and that may be especially true of this fourth volume of Bowen released by Dutch pianist Joop Celis. Lengthier Bowen works tend to have a more serious tone, but these all combine lightness with some very subtle work on the keyboard. The Partita, Op. 156, is a vaguely neo-classic work that uses the rhythms of the Baroque suite more as motifs than as unifying devices, and the two works on the program labeled as suites likewise begin with neutral material and elaborate on it in quiet but technically demanding ways, often creating a sort of sparkling effect. Sample the three-movement, 10-minute Sonatina, Op. 144, to see whether this aspect of Bowen's output appeals to you; he seems to be a composer whose star is on the rise, and Celis is a sympathetic champion (although other multi-disc series of his music are underway). Brilliantly transparent Chandos engineering is a major plus here. Booklet notes are in English, German, and French.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Partita, Op. 156
1 1:43
2 1:39
3 2:48
4 1:15
5 2:13
Suite Mignonne, Op. 39 (Fourth Suite)
6 3:15
7 2:35
8 2:50
Third Suite, Op. 38
9 3:31
10 3:11
11 3:31
12 2:24
13 3:58
Three Sketches, Op. 43
14 2:51
15 3:15
16 4:01
Sonatina, Op. 144
17 4:06
18 3:12
19 3:07
Three Novelettes, Op. 124
20 4:14
21 3:27
22 3:41
23 10:07
24 2:28
blue highlight denotes track pick