P0670. YORK BOWEN: The Complete Solo 78-rpm Recordings, incl. Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Moscheles, Cochrane, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schütt, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Gardiner & Bowen; w.Stanley Chapple Cond.: Concerto #4 in G (Beethoven). (England) 2-Appian APR 6007, recorded 1915-27. Transfers by Ward Marston. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 5024709160075
“This time Ward Marston, that restoration magician, has collected together all of the pianist-composer’s solo shellac recordings so that we may hear the performing artistry of this extraordinary musician….Don’t hesitate for a moment in acquiring this important historical document of some extraordinary pianism.”
- Alan Becker, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2009
"The music of York Bowen (1884-1961) has gained a foothold in the CD catalog as more pianists discover his inventive Romantic keyboard idiom. However, Bowen himself was no mean pianist, and this first complete reissue of his 78-rpm recordings is most welcome. The collection begins with the 1925 recorded premiere of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto. Although the recording's acoustic technology renders the music's delicate orchestra/piano balances meaningless, you still can appreciate Bowen's rippling, symmetrical fingerwork (think Walter Gieseking) as well as more regimented and intonationally secure orchestral playing than that era's norm. Bowen's stylistically incongruous first-movement cadenza (a little Delius, a little Rachmaninov) is, to paraphrase Arthur Loesser, pure 'cream of corn'. If anything, Bowen's suave and characterful command of Beethoven's Op. 27, No. 1 Sonata's first movement proves more impressive (he only recorded this one movement, unfortunately). His slightly less poised Op. 78 sonata interpretation contains interesting individual touches, such as the first movement's headlong, angular passagework, and his drawing out of the second movement's main theme.
The winged flexibility Bowen brings to the first movement of Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wien helps us better digest the music's repetitive qualities. Bowen's light and sparkling Debussy Jardins sous la pluie and Second Arabesque easily stand with the 78-era's best, while he plays four of his own short pieces with expected authority and panache.
Not everything is memorable: certain Romantic warhorses (Liszt's Eglogue, Mendelssohn's Scherzo, Rachmaninov's G minor Prelude, Chopin's Third Ballade, Second Scherzo, A-flat Op. 34 No. 1 Waltz, and C-sharp minor Op. 26 No. 1 Polonaise) fall flat in the face of competing shellac versions (Hofmann in the Chopin Waltz, Friedman in the Mendelssohn, for instance). Yet you cannot discount Bowen's fastidious articulation of inner voices in the E minor Etude, nor his effortless, feathery left-hand figurations in the G major Prelude. In sum, this is a valuable collection all around, graced by Jonathan Summer's excellent annotations plus painstaking sound restoration by Ward Marston."
-Jed Distler, Classics Today.com, April, 2009
“In recent years York Bowen, the composer, has enjoyed a spectacular revival, but until now his talents as pianist (barring a late recording of his own music for Lyrita) have not been heard since the days of 78s. At the height of his success, in the first decades of the 20th century, Bowen was as much known as pianist as composer and frequently performed at the Proms among other things. His first recording, a very rare disc on the Marathon label, was released in 1915, but the bulk of his work was done for Vocalion; after they went bankrupt in 1927, he appears to have made no further 78s. Pride of place must go to Bowen’s recording of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto. This was the very first recording of the work and its neglect has been due to the fact that it was one of the last recordings to be made under the old acoustic process which was superseded the year the work was issued. Bowen’s pianism is extremely fluent and he plays his own cadenzas! Through all the featured works we hear a pianist who plays in the ‘grand manner’ and that, along with his preference for romantic repertoire, reveal him as somewhat atypical of the English pianist of his time. Perhaps his nickname ‘the English Rachmaninov’ did indeed hit the nail on the head. APR has a reputation for the valuable and unexpected when it comes to historic piano recordings, but this is something else. Few of even the most dedicated pianophiles will have known of the existence of these discs made between 1915 and 1927, all but two for the Vocalion label. There has recently been a notable increase of interest in [York Bowen’s] music; these recordings reveal what a masterly pianist he was. Now, unquestionably, York Bowen, ‘the English Rachmaninoff’, can be seen as a serious and unpardonable case of neglect….Bowen comes across as a wonderfully assured musician for whom the studio held no fears….Among many performances of standard repertoire that can hold their own with those of the greatest pianists of the era (I include Rachmaninoff, Moiséiwitsch & Hofmann)….the transfers (Ward Marston) are amazingly smooth and clear, and APR’s annotation is, as always, immaculate. This is the first in the queue for next year’s historical awards.”
- Jeremy Nicholas, GRAMOPHONE, Dec., 2008