York Bowen

York BowenEdwin York Bowen was born  February 22, 1884   in Crouch Hill , London  and died  November 23, 1961 after several decades  as a talented musician and composing over 160 musical works many of which remained unpublished and unperformed until after his death.  His music falls in the category of Romantic with rich harmonic language. He composed an amazing amount of piano music at this time. His quintet for bass clarinet and string quartet is one of the pieces the Charles River Sinfonietta hopes to perform soon if concerts start to take place again in the  near future.

As the youngest of 3 sons to a father who was the owner of the whisky distillers Bowen and McKechnie he started piano lessons with his mom  at an early age  and showed very promising signs of talent and continued studying piano at the North Metropolitan College of Music and at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music.   Then in 1898 at the age of 14 he got a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music where he studied till 1905 winning many awards and prizes during his time there.  Just two years  later he was awarded a fellowship to the Royal Academy of Music, and then in 1909 was appointed a professor there.

In 1912 he married a singer, Sylvia Dalton, and they had their first son.   In WW1 he played in the Scottish band as a horn and viola player. After the war he continued his professorship at the Royal Academy of Music where he remained until his death in 1961. He also taught for over 40 years at the Tobias Matthay  Piano School.  As a performer he was  admired for his talent as a pianist and was always giving concerts at the Queen’s Hall and Royal Albert Hall.   He performed  all four of his piano concertos he composed as the soloist. Lots. of his compositions he dedicated to renowned musicians who would perform them.  Yes Fritz Kreisler was one who  premiered York Bowen’s  suite for violin and piano opus 28, in 1910 That piece also got performed by some other well known violinists including Joseph Szigetti,  Michael Zacherewitsch, and Efrem Zimbalist.   in 1920 a celibrated violinist Majorie Haward performed Bowen’s violin concerto opus 33.  And the first performances  of his sonata for Horn and piano opus  101, and his concerto for horn , strings and timpani opus 150 were premiered and performed by  the famous. horn players Aubrey Brain and Dennis Brain.  As a piano soloist he gave the world premiere of  William Walton’s Sinfonia Concertante for Orchestra and piano  and he along with Henry Wood and Frederick Kiddie gave the first British performance of Mozart’s concerto for 3 pianos and orchestra k 242.   York Bowen  made the first recording of Beethoven’s piano concerto #4 in G.

York Bowen’s really had great success in his early career as a pianist and composer before WW1.  However  by 1929 his romantic style was starting to be considered to old fashioned and out dated.  While his first piano concerto composed in 1903 got great compliments from Saint Saens and other world famous composers then, later in his life many people felt he did not get. the real attention he and lots of his works deserved.    Many compositions from his  later years remained unpublished  during his lifetime , and despite efforts of the York Bowen Society there are still many works of his that have not been published yet that deserve to become known and heard, and his orchestral and chamber music works are rarely performed today.

York Bowen

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