One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



Buy through MusicWeb for £13.49
postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button

York BOWEN (1884-1961)
String Quartet No. 2 in D minor Op. 41 (1922) [28.29]
String Quartet No. 3 in G major Op. 46b (1919) [27.24]
Phantasy Quintet for Bass Clarinet and String Quartet Op. 93 (1932) [14.02]
Archaeus String Quartet; Timothy Lines (bass clarinet)
rec. Recital Room, Tonbridge School, Kent, 16, 18, 20 December 2001. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

Back in the early 1960s I had a piano teacher born I suppose around 1898 who knew York Bowen and had often heard him play. He told me, and I recalled it later in my diary, that “Bowen had had much facility and little depth and had never realized his potential”. I wasn’t surprised when a few years later I tried to buy a record of some (any) music by Bowen that I was greeted, even in the best classical shops, with incredulity and blank faces. Yet now a large proportion of his output can be heard on CD. He appears to have been much underrated as a composer but perhaps this aspect of his career was eclipsed by his work as a virtuoso performer. The British Music Society has done much to rehabilitate York Bowen and this CD, which first appeared in 2002, helps further.

I wrote the above and then read, in the useful CD booklet notes by John Talbot, the following quotation from the insightful Thomas Dunhill. Bowen “may be described as a Romanticist with sympathies in the direction of the impressionist” and his “chamber music is predominantly brilliant in style”. He continues: “In his flair for effect ... he takes his place as a facile exponent of an essentially healthy and breezy phase in modern art”.

These thoughts are relevant when listening to the Second Quartet which opens this disc; the First Quartet, we are told, is not extant. It is a three movement work which won a competition, the ‘Carnegie Trust Award’. It gives the impression of being the kind of work that would win a competition. As the judges commented at the time “A well written and effective piece in three movements, presenting no undue difficulty”. John Talbot thinks that they meant to the performers. He may be right, but the work, as he acknowledges, is brilliant and “presents considerable difficulty in execution”. No, I think the judges were referring to the listeners. The music is logical and uses totally familiar territory in form, having a sonata-form first movement for example and a ternary form slow movement. In terms of key it ends where it began and modulates no further than Rachmaninov would have taken us. In melody its long-breathed phrases may have a touch of Debussy about them. I like the piece but, I kept asking myself, why it has hardly been played. Bowen is British. That is a problem as we hardly ever promote our own. Ultimately however the work lacks a real character of its own. In a cluttered market another pleasing and well constructed string quartet just won’t catch on unless it has a certain something else to commend it. The advocacy of the Archaeus Quartet cannot be doubted. They bring out the passionate middle section of the middle movement wonderfully but the tone can become a little brittle especially in the more excitable moments of the finale.

It may well be that my elderly piano teacher was, like many Englishmen of his generation, rather suspicious of things ‘foreign’ even worse of Englishmen in any way influenced by ‘foreign practices’. If that was the case then he would have enjoyed much more, I am sure, the Third Quartet. Sadly it was not published or probably performed in Bowen’s lifetime so the opportunity never arose. And No I haven’t printed the dates incorrectly above, it does, apparently pre-date the Second Quartet and its sounds like it. It is much more English-Pastoral especially in the first movement. My eldest son, a London music student proclaimed that it could be the Quartet that George Butterworth never wrote. Early Ireland might equally come to mind. I don’t feel that I can concur with John Talbot when he cautiously comments “it is open to conjecture that these two quartets were written almost concurrently, towards the end of or just after the First War”. Stylistically they feel rather too different for that, so I find myself wondering if the Third is not in fact the supposedly lost First Quartet (some of which may be pre-war) revised and/or reworked. Even so both works are in three movements with the outer movements in sonata form and the slow one in ternary form. Both finales begin with a jolly ‘fiddle-type’ melody accompanied by pizzicato, so there are many similarities. The performers play all of the exposition repeats but the music never outstays its welcome. Again there are moments in the finale when things get complex and the intonation seem not quite so secure. Even so these are marvellously committed performances and we are in the debt of this fine ensemble.

The ‘Phantasy-Quintet’ reminds us of the 1905 instigation of the Cobbett Prize for British Chamber Music with the stipulation that the ancient ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Fantasia’ form be used. The opening reminded me instantly of Ravel and that shimmering mood returns at the end. The form can be seen as three-movements-in-one. But what a fascinating and probably unique combination. The silky tones of the bass clarinet weave around the lower strings and sometimes double the viola making a rich and vibrant texture. The recording and the general balance is superb and Timothy Lines’ intonation is immaculate especially in some rather unidiomatic phrases. The haunting quality of the piece reminded me of another Phantasy from this period - the Sextet of Eugene Goossens. The CD is brought to a very satisfactory conclusion, leaving one wanting more of this sound-world.

Gary Higginson

see also reviews by Rob Barnett, Lewis Foreman, Michael Bryant and Michael Cookson








Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.