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Bowen, Britten & Holst: Chamber Music With Viola

Bowen, Britten & Holst: Chamber Music With Viola

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An accomplished horn and viola player, York Bowen is said to have preferred the tone of the viola to the violin. Inspired by the virtuosity and vibrato style of the distinguished violist, Lionel Tertis, Bowen wrote several works for him and became his accompanist. Bowen’s subtle shifts of key and heartfelt melodies are well in evidence here, including the powerful and poised Rhapsody, Op.149, considered to be one of his most important works. Gustav Holst’s daughter Imogen is represented here by the open-air freshness of her Four Easy Pieces and the terse, laconic narrative of her Duo for Viola and Piano. Britten’s spiky Waltz is full of 1930s wit.


Yue Yu and Anthony Hewitt give splendid performances that hold their own even alongside those terrific displays by Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford-Phillips (Hyperion, 9/08). An excellent album, this, definitely worth investigating.

-- Gramophone

Here’s an interesting and variegated disc of 20th-century British viola repertoire. Yue Yu’s York Bowen runs up against Lawrence Power’s formidable Hyperion survey, but not everywhere: the Three Duos for Violin and Viola were discovered after that set was recorded, and so receive their first public outing here. (They are immediately attractive music, all three). And Yue is well equipped in her own right; her account of the opening Melody for the C-String is Power’s equal in sound and suavity.

Benjamin Britten gets only a tiny look-in: the fifth-movement Waltz from his early violin Suite, op. 6, in his own viola transcription. (Why not give us the whole thing?) It’s sassy and impertinent and a mite absurd, but—like much of his early music—overflowing with sheer exuberant invention. Later, that streak would be confined and systematized (too much, some think), but here it just breaks out anyhow.

Imogen Holst's Four Easy Pieces are minuscule character studies—the whole set takes a bare six minutes—that combine simple motivic material with a quirky strain of humor. The scarcely longer Duo for Viola and Piano is teasingly playful, even in the slow middle movement.

The record sound is excellent; useful and comprehensive notes are provided.

-- Fanfare

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Naxos Regular CD
    • UPC/Barcode: 747313415076
    • Item Number: 8574150