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CHAN 10670
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CHAN 10670

Bowen: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2

The Classical Shop
release date: May 2011

Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz
album available as a Studio Master
Originally recorded in 2010


BBC Philharmonic

Sir Andrew Davis


Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester


Brian Pidgeon

Mike George

Ralph Couzens



Stephen Rinker

Chris Hardman


Record Label


Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 72:46
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premiere recording

Symphony No. 1, Op. 4

  in G major - in G-Dur - en sol majeur  
1 I Allegro assai - Poco meno mosso - Tempo I - Largamente - Tempo I - 12:02
2 II Larghetto 7:56
3 III Finale. Allegro con brio - Largamente - Meno mosso - Animato - Tranquillo - 9:51

Symphony No. 2, Op. 31

  in E minor - in e-Moll - en mi mineur  
4 I Moderato - Allegro - Poco meno - Tempo - Allegro molto - Poco sostenuto - 13:09
5 II Lento. Tranquillo - Poco meno mosso - Tempo I - Molto tranquillo 12:16
6 III Allegro scherzando, ma moderato - Più mosso - Tempo I 6:09
7 IV Finale. Grave - Allegro molto, con fuoco - Poco largamente - Tempo I - Meno allegro - 11:23

Bowen: Symphonies Nos 1 and 2 – BBC Philharmonic, Sir Andrew Davis

York Bowen has a distinguished reputation as a composer and was considered to be one of Britain’s finest pianists. In his day he was known as ‘The English Rachmaninoff’, and Saint-Saëns described him as ‘the most remarkable of the young British composers’. The works of York Bowen tend to display a blend of romanticism and strong individuality, and although the influences on him include the likes of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky, his music is also strongly defined by textures and harmonies that are uniquely ‘Bowen’. This recording presents his only two surviving symphonies, Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2, which are performed by the BBC Philharmonic under the exclusive Chandos artist Sir Andrew Davis.

Symphony No. 1 was written in 1902 when Bowen was an eighteen-year-old composition student at the Royal Academy of Music. The work is laid out in only three movements (unusual for the time), and requires a relatively modest orchestra. It is a deeply impressive achievement – the beauty and lyricism of the second movement and its myriad of orchestral colourations, together with a unique and often surprising sense of well-being in the finale, demonstrate that here is a genuinely symphonic composer who was not content just to copy established models and appease his professors. At least one movement of this symphony was performed during Bowen’s time at the academy, but this recording may well be the first time that the work has been performed in its entirety.

When Bowen composed his Symphony No. 2 just seven years after completing his first, much had happened in the world of modern music, not least in instrumental terms with the acceptance of large orchestras as standard. As a result this work is much larger in scale than his first symphony, and performed with significantly larger instrumental forces too. The finale in particular is spectacular in the way it develops from the tiniest semi-tonal seed into a fiery and almost unstoppable flood of ‘Bowen-esque’ inventiveness. This symphony is the work of an assured composer who was completely certain in his music’s sense of direction and in the positive and life-affirming nature of his compositions.

"...If you like Romantic and colorful orchestral scores with long lyrical lines, you will love these compositions. Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic perform with sensuous beauty and emotive excitement. Chandos’ lush but clear sound is an added plus."   *****

Robert Moon - Audiophile Audition - 16 January 2012

"...Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic are a splendid team, giving this forgotten work an inspired performance ..."

Buerkle - American Record Guide - November/December 2011

“…The curious are unlikely to ever find a better introduction to Bowen’s symphonic music.”

Ronald E Grames – Fanfare – November/December 2011

  **** Excellent

Giusseppe Rossi - Musica (Italy) - September 2011

"...Once again, Chandos and Sir Andrew Davis have put us in their debt for unearthing these scores. Both the sound and performances are excellent."  ****

Greg Keane - Limelight Magazine - 22 September 2011

"He conducts with great belief in the scores, both of which he invests with life, energy and a strong lyrical impulse. His contribution to this release is absolutely first class and further enhances his reputation as a formidable champion of British music.

I’m sure Sir Andrew would be quick to acknowledge the superb, responsive and committed playing by the BBC Philharmonic. So assured is their playing that one might think these were repertoire pieces. They’re very far from that and they’re never likely to be. My advice to admirers of York Bowen’s music and, indeed, to anyone interested in British music of the twentieth century, would be to snap up this excellent release without delay."

John Quinn - - September 2011

                      Performance ****       Recording ****
“…deftly written and inventive, and realized here in spirited, thoroughly sympathetic performances.”

Calum MacDonald – BBC Music Magazine – September 2011

“…Those who have been attracted by Bowen’s inherently civilized music should certainly investigate this very finely produced CD, which is strongly recommended to lovers of British music of the period.”

Alexander – Musical Opinion – July/August 2011

“…The recording is superb, reporting a satisfying combination of warmth and clarity … The two works have become captivating over repeated listening and are strongly recommended to all lovers of diatonic music of the early twentieth-century.”

Peter Joelson – – June 2011

“…The playing is relaxed and refined, particularly in the extended solos for violin and clarinet.”

Anna Picard – The Independent on Sunday – 5 June 2011

“… these are highly enjoyable pieces, and well played with good Chandos recording …”

Peter Spaull – Liverpool Daily Post – 3 June 2011

        IRR Outstanding
“…The present release is essential listening: first, because is substantially expands our knowledge of a musician who was clearly neither an anachronism nor merely an Interesting Historical figure; second, because it is hugely enjoyable on its own terms; an third, because it is so stunningly well played and executed: hence the red-letter nomination…”

Piers Burton-Page – International Record Review – June 2011

“…Davis and the BBC Philharmonic give both symphonies finely groomed performances …”

Andrew Clements – The Guardian – 28 April 2011

Wow - these two symphonies are a "MUST HAVE"! I'd only heard York Bowen's piano music until I heard these. It's incredible that he wrote such a terrific 1st at only 18 years of age, and then his second 7 years later. A tragedy that they've only recently been fully heard and appreciated (2010!).
L James

B Gillie

W Higgs

P Joelson

Misquoting Richard Strauss (I may not be a first class composer, but I am a first rate 2nd class composer) Bowen, unlike Strauss himself, does tend to fall into that category. His music is completely tonal, colourful and sometimes dramatic. The more mature 2nd symphony is a major leap forward from the 1st which is more of a tuneful Sinfonietta. He does not have a major distinctive voice, although obviously English, like say Bax, Finzi or Bantock. I would place him in the same sort of category as Dyson or Howells. Davis and the BBCPO give it their all and the recording is superb. He does not deserve the total neglect that has come his way and is well worth a hearing. If the music was greater and more memorable I would have given 4 stars and the performance is well worth 5.
t kent