Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:


Any music lover, familiar with Paganini's 24 Caprices and York Bowen's 24 Preludes in all the major and minor keys, may have noticed the similarity between Paganini's 17th Caprice in E flat major and Bowen's 10th Prelude in E minor. Furthermore, one would have noticed that both these sets of pieces reflect the mastery of the composers' understanding of the potential of his instrument, both technically and musically.

There, perhaps, the similarity ends. Paganini's caprices have been available in print, and known to violinists, for nearly two hundred years, whereas Bowen's preludes have been around for only half a century - most of the time out of print, and only known to a few pianists, either those in the legacy of Bowen's teaching, or those dedicated seekers of elusive musical gems. York Bowen, himself, recorded some of his piano music for Lyrita which must have rekindled a flame of interest in those musicians who might have heard the recording. More recently, in 1994, Marie-Catherine Girod recorded all the Op. 102 Preludes, together with other piano pieces, on a CD, at the instigation of the French musicologist, Michel Fleury but the biggest impact on the listening public has been Stephen Hough's recording, for Hyperion, of a number of preludes and other piano works, notably the 5th Sonata in F minor of Bowen's all of which Hough brings to life with a marvellous display of technical mastery and musical sensitivity.

Returning to similarities: York Bowen is sometimes referred to as the English Rachmaninov. I, personally, find it hard to wholly embrace this opinion. To me, Bowen's music is as comparable to Rachmaninov's as Britain is to Russia. No doubt some similarities can be found in the two countries as they can be in the two composers' solo piano compositions; and true enough, the piano works of both these prodigious pianists share the romantic idiom and benefit from the experience of their technical excellence: also being contemporaries they were living with similar musical experiences and influences, so a common denominator is more apparent than were we to compare the piano music of either composer with that of Debussy or Albeniz.

Now to differentiate. Although Bowen wrote many orchestral works including four symphonies - the fourth being lost - they lack the melodic sweep and colourful orchestration of Rachmaninov's. Bowen's third symphony is a pleasant work which received several performances when it was written, but has since been shelved. Generally speaking, Bowen's orchestral works are not his forte, even though his writing for orchestral instruments is grateful and thoroughly understood - he played most of them quite well, more especially the viola and the French horn, and his concertos and chamber works involving these instruments are more inspired. Of the four piano concertos the first three were written at the turn of the last century - youthful works with some splendid pianistic flurries, but heavily influenced by the popular concertos of the time, all of which Bowen performed - Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, and particularly Grieg. The fourth is a later work which deserves to be in the repertoire of British piano concertos and be available on a compact disc. I would rank it with Holbrooke's and John Ireland's, but its merits are very different to the magnetism of Rachmaninov's.

It is Bowen's solo piano music that lifts him to the position of a grand master, and I believe that many of his inspired ideas were engendered by his inspirational skills, probably on a par with those of Balakirev. Reflect! You can't physically improvise with an orchestra, ruling out what I have heard under Stockhausen's direction. Orchestral colouring needs to be heard in the head as no doubt it was to inspire the perfect orchestrations of Mozart and the exciting instrumental blends of Berlioz, Britten, Stravinsky and countless others.

So, though I may seem to have belittled some of Bowen's compositions by comparisons and excuses, for youthful endeavour when he was searching for his voice, let me now make up for this lack of enthusiasm by enlarging on his outstanding achievements, mainly in the realm of compositions for piano solo, two pianos, piano duets and other duos involving an equal piano part. In this respect I would class Bowen as the English Chopin - a composer with whom Bowen was a kindred spirit. Born on the 22nd of February, which at that time was thought to have been the date of Chopin's birthday in 1810. Bowen chose to write ballads, studies, a polonaise, scherzos, and, as already mentioned, a set of preludes in all the major and minor keys. Bowen follows Bach's arrangement of keys, going, chromatically, from C major up to B minor, whereas Chopin's preludes go through the cycle of keys from C major to D minor, an arrangement also used by Shostakovich. Bowen's published piano works start from opus l, Spare Moments, and end with his 6th Piano sonata, opus 160, recently published by Weinberger as Sonata in B flat minor. In all there are well over seventy single items and volumes of piano solos composed steadily throughout his life together with three wonderfully satisfying sets of piano duets and a wealth of music for two pianos. Add to these some excellent works for piano with a wind or string instrument, plus three piano trios, one of which has been lost, and we have a treasure trove of works for today's pianists. To aim for one volume which puts Bowen in a class of his own from the last century, go for the 24 Preludes ,opus 102. These will stay fresh however many times they are played - the ultimate test that lifts music into another dimension.

Interesting works that don't involve the piano are the fantasy for bass clarinet and string quartet, the quintet for horn and string quartet, the fantasy for four violas, the string quartets numbers 2 and 3 and the concerto for horn and string orchestra. Anyone wanting to know more about Bowen's personal life should read Monica Watson's book 'YORK BOWEN - a centenary tribute' published by Thames Publishing, but currently out of print. Ask for it through a public library. It contains a catalogue of all Bowen's works.

© John Lindsay

enquiries to John Lindsay at Cairnbield, Gordon TD3 6JT ( 01573 410380.



For its next in-house CD release, the BMS is hoping to record in November 2001 three chamber works of YORK BOWEN:

  • Horn Quintet in C minor, Op. 84
  • String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, Op. 41 (Carnegie Award, 1922)
  • String Quartet No. 3 in G major

A minimum donation of £25 will ensure a free copy of the CD when released. Should the project not go ahead, all monies will be refunded. Please send donations to the BMS Treasurer, Stephen Trowell, 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster, Essex RM14 3DE (John Talbot, Recordings Manager) These are all first recordings!



Oboe Sonata Unicorn CD9121 (Polmear and Ambache)

Clarinet Sonata BML 002 John Denman Review

Flute Sonata ASV  CDDCA862 (Ken Smith) AmazonUK

Flute Sonata (Culliford and Saunders)

Miniature Suite for flute and Piano (Culliford and Saunders) LORELT LNT107 AmazonUK

Recorder Sonata (Adams and Rhodes) Upbeat Classics URDC150 AmazonUK

Cello Sonata BMS 423 CD (Cole and Talbot) Review

Fantasia for Organ PRIORY PR CD 903 Marc Rochester

Suites for Piano Duet Opp 52 and 71 BMS 414 Cassette BMS

Piano Duet Suite in 3 Movenents, Suite No 2,(Peter Lawson Alan MacLean) Campion RRCD1353  AmazonUK

Piano Duets Opp. 52 and 96 OLYMPIA OCD 680 (Posner and Garvelmann) Amazon UK Review

(Note Op 52 is given the number 53. This because there are two Bowen compositions with the opus number 52)

The Way to Polden FAND 101 Oliver Williams

Preludes Op 102, Nocturne Op 87; Berceuse Op 83 and Partita Op 156. Marie-Catherine Giraud 3D CLASSICS 8012

Thirteen Preludes from Op. 102, Ballade No 2 Op 87, Berceuse Op 83, Sonata No 5 in F minor Op 72, Moto Perpetuo from Op. 39, TOCCATA Op 155 and Two Romances Op. 35 No 1 and Op 45 ? Stephen Hough on Hyperion CDA 66838 AmazonUK Review

Preludes 8 and 10  Guy Jonson Libra MNU 9910  Review



The following scores are available from Emerson Music - June Emerson - wind music - Windmill Farm, Appleforth, N Yorks YO6 4HF
phone +44 (0)1439 788324
fax +44 (0)1439 788715

Sonata for flute and piano
Sonata for clarinet and pf
Sonata for recorder and pf
Sonata for Horn and pf
Sonata for oboe and pf
Sonata for 2 flutes
Miniature Suite for flute and pf
Soliloquy and Frolic for flute solo

Josef Weinberger
12-14 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JJ
phone +44 (0)20-7580 2827
Fax +44 (0)20-7436 9616

Works by York Bowen at Josef Weinberger


Evening Calm
Fragments from Hans Andersen - Suite for Piano - Part One Op. 58**
Fragments from Hans Andersen - Suite for Piano - Part Three Op. 61 **
Fragments from Hans Andersen - Suite for Piano - Part Two Op. 59@*
Short Sonata
Sonata in B flat minor
Sonata in F minor
The Way to Polden
Three English Dances - Piano**
Three Valse Themes - Piano**
Three Sketches Op. 43 - Piano**
Three Miniatures Op. 44 - Piano**
Those Children! (Five Impressions) Op. 55 - Piano**
Twenty-four Preludes in all Major and Minor Keys
Two Intermezzi
Two Preludes
Variations and Fugue on an Unoriginal Theme for Piano / Op. 62*
Concerto No. 4 (in A minor) for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 88*


Theme and Variations


Concerto for viola and orchestra (piano reduction)
Melody for the G String for Violin (or Viola) and Piano / Op. 47**
Melody for the C String of the Viola with Piano Accompaniment / Op. 51**
Phantasy for viola and piano
Rhapsody for viola and piano


Introduction and Allegro for Viola d'Amore and Piano (1961 )*
Nocturne and Caprice for Viola d'Amore and Piano / Op. 153*
Poem for Viola d'Amore and Piano (1957) *


Rhapsody for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op. 74*


Two Preludes for horn and piano


Quintet for horn and string quartet in C Minor
Rhapsody Trio for Violin / Violoncello and Piano / Op. 80*
String Quartet Nr.3 in G Major*
Trio for Violin / Violoncello and Piano / Op. 118*


Miniature Suite**
Wind Band:
The Hardy Tin Soldier Nr.1* 2.1 .5.asax.tsax./2.0.2btbn .0/2crt/euph/db
* in preparation
** originally Swan Publications

For information and perusal materials:

Promotion Department
Josef Weinberger Ltd
12-14 Mortimer Street
London W1T 3JJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7927 7304
Fax: +44 (0)20 7436 9616

Sales enquiries:
William Elkin Music Services
Station Road Industrial Estate
Norwich NR13 6NY
Tel: +44 (0)1603 721 302
Fax:  +44 (0)1603 721 801



BOWEN, Edwin York [Crouch End, London, 22.2.1884 - London, 1961]

Bowen was an English composer and pianist who studied at the RAM from 1898 to 1905. Later he was on the staff of the Academy. In 1926 he made a six sided recording on 78 of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4. This was for the Vocalion Co with the Aeolian Orchestra.

Symphony: Symphony No. 1 in G major Op. 4 (1902); Symphony No. 2 in E minor Op. 31 (1909, New SO/Landon Ronald, Queen's Hall, 1.2.1912); Symphony No. 3 Op. 137 (1951 BBCNO/Maurice Miles); Symphony No. 4 in G major (score lost);

Orchestra: Symphonic Poem, The Lament of Tasso Op. 5 (1902, Queen's Hall Promenade Henry Wood , Aug 1903, Bournemouth, April 1907); Concert Overture in G minor Op. 15 (Bournemouth, October 1904); Symphonic Fantasia in F major Op. 16 (LSO, Queen's Hall); At The Play Op. 50; Suite Op. 57; Tone poem Eventide Op. 69; Royal Air Force March Past for military band (1919); Festal Overture in D major Op. 89; Pierrette, A Graceful Dance (1938); Fantasy Overture on Tom Bowling Op. 115; Three Pieces for string orchestra with harp ad lib. Symphonic Suite (1942); Two Characteristic Dances; Miniature Suite for School Orchestra; Holiday Suite;

Concerto: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major Op. 11 (1903, Bowen/Sir A. C. Mackenzie Dec 1903, Bournemouth, October 1904); Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor 'Concertstück' Op. 17 (1905 Bournemouth, March 1909); (Bournemouth, April 1907); Piano Concerto No. 3 'Fantasia' Op. 23 (1907 Bournemouth, April 1909); Viola Concerto in C minor Op. 25 (1907, Lionel Tertis/RPS/Landon Ronald, 26.3.1908); Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 33 (Marjorie Hayward/Bowen, Bournemouth, March 1923); Rhapsody in D major for cello and orchestra Op. 74 (Beatrice Harrison/Hastings Festival April 1927); Piano Concerto No. 4 in A minor Op. 88 (* Bowen/BBCSO/Boult 19.3.1937); Arabeske for harp and small orchestra Op. (1949); Concerto for horn, strings and timpani Op. 150 (* 1956 Dennis Brain/Welbeck Orchestra/Maurice Miles, 1.7.1956); Sinfonietta Concertante for brass and orchestra (1957 BBCNO/George Hurst); Jig for two pianos and orchestra;

Chamber: Phantasy Quartet for four violas (1907); Viola Sonata No. 1 in C minor (1909); Viola Sonata in F major (1911); Violin Sonata in E minor Op. (1947); Cello Sonata Op. 64; Rhapsody Trio for violin cello and piano Op. 80; Clarinet Sonata in F minor Op. (1943) ; Oboe Sonata Op. 85; Flute Sonata Op. 120; Recorder Sonata Op. 121 (1948); Sonata for two flutes; Horn Sonata in E flat major (1943); Rhapsody for viola and piano Op. 149 (1956); Two Sketches for solo violin, The Clown. The Dragonfly (1961)

Piano: Two Pieces, Caprice and Nocturne Op. 106; Arabesque Op. 119; Song without words, Song of the Stream

Two Pianos: Concert Waltz Op. 108; Suite Op. 111; Capriccio and Poem Op. 129; Ballade Op. 157

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