Lorraine McAslan: York Bowen Violin Concerto, Vernon Handley

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Lorraine McAslan performing York Bowen - Violin Concerto (1913)
Conducted by Vernon Handley, BBC Concert Orchestra
I. Allegro Maestoso - Allegro Ma Non Troppo - 00:00
II. Andante Con Moto - 14:11
III. Allegro Assai - 24:49

Edwin York Bowen (22 February 1884 -- 23 November 1961) was an English composer and pianist. Bowen's musical career spanned more than fifty years during which time he wrote over 160 works. As well as being a pianist and composer, Bowen was a talented conductor, organist, violist and horn player. Despite achieving considerable success during his lifetime, many of the composer's works remained unpublished and unperformed until after his death in 1961. Bowen's compositional style is widely considered as 'Romantic' and his works are often characterized by their rich harmonic language. He was one of the most notable English composers of piano music of his time.

During his early career Bowen achieved considerable success as both a composer and concert pianist. After hearing the premiere of Bowen's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E♭ major, Op. 11 in 1903, Camille Saint-Saëns hailed Bowen as 'the finest of English composers'. This opinion was shared by many of Bowen's contemporaries and is reflected in the support he received from many eminent musicians and academics.
Despite Bowen's success during the years before the First World War, by the time he wrote his Piano Concerto No. 4 in A minor, Op. 88, in 1929, his romantic compositional style was considered outdated in relation to the modern techniques of his contemporaries. In his autobiography published in 1938, Sir Henry J. Wood protested that Bowen had 'never taken the position he deserves'.

Following his death in 1961, many of Bowen's compositions remained unpublished. As a result of this, performances of Bowen's works diminished and much of his music remained unperformed in the decades after his death. During this time one of Bowen's most enthusiastic advocates was the composer and pianist Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, to whom Bowen had dedicated his Twenty Four Preludes, Op. 102. The increase in publications and performances of Bowen's works during the late twentieth century was also largely due to the work done by the York Bowen Society. The revival of interest in Bowen's music during the 1980s was also influenced by the publication of Monica Watson's book York Bowen: A Centenary Tribute (Thames, London, 1984) as well as numerous recordings made of Bowen's works.

Despite the advancements made by the York Bowen Society, many of the composer's works remain unpublished. Although many of Bowen's solo instrumental works contribute significantly to modern performance repertoire, his orchestral and chamber works are rarely performed.