York Bowen: String Quartets

review bowen x1 cong


Bowen is another British composer who’s been lost to present music fans. Like Arnold Cooke from last week, this was originally released by the British Music Society and is now out on Naxos.

Bowen (1884-1961) was active before WWI and seems to have disappeared without trace afterwards, which is a shame.

This album from The Archaeus Quartet comprises two string quartets and a quintet for bass clarinet, with Timothy Lines joining the quartet for that.

In the opening track, the second string quartet in D, he sounds more European than Cooke and it’s romantic in style, albeit slightly sentimental, though technically sophisticated. It reminded us of a slightly gloomy painting of a mountainous valley, in one of those heavy gold frames.

Second piece, the third quartert in G, was never published in his lifetime. There is no known performance: it’s more English and less sentimental, though still nicely gloomy.

Closing piece the phantasy-quintet is as mysterious as the third quartet, and is an opportunity for the bass clarinet to show off its beautiful sound, accompanied by music that takes from a folk heritage.

Overall: well-made – the second quartet won a Carnegie medal in 1922 – and easy to listen to, and if you like slightly sentimental violin it’s worth giving Mr Bowen some of the attention he deserves.



About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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