Endymion Ensemble at Wigmore Hall

Trio élégiaque No.1 in G minor
Rhapsody No.1 in B minor, Op.10 [World premiere]
Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano
Rhapsody Trio in A minor, Op.80
Suite in D minor for Violin and Piano, Op.28

Endymion Ensemble [Krysia Osostowicz (violin), Jane Salmon (cello) & Michael Dussek (piano)]

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 25 September, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

York BowenThe Endymion Ensemble, with the financial support of the York Bowen Society and the Delius Trust, is much to be applauded for mounting this “York Bowen Portrait” programme at Wigmore Hall, which relaunched the York Bowen Society – although the music which went alongside Bowen’s works seemed to have been unsuitably chosen. For example, the opening item by the teenaged Rachmaninov, written when Bowen was eight years old, does few people any favours – not least the composer – although the commitment of the Endymion’s musicians was never in doubt.

This was followed by the world premiere of Bowen’s B minor Rhapsody of 1902, which, after 106 years, may appear to be rather too much of its time – yet one would be hard-pressed to name another English composer of the day whose command of the keyboard and structure in this twelve-minute movement equalled that of the 18-year-old Bowen. Michael Dussek gave a totally convincing account of this scandalously neglected work, a performance of no little authority and insight.

Krysia Osostowicz spoke from the platform for a while on Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant before playing it, but – sitting at the rear of the hall, as critics are wont to be placed – it was impossible to make out everything she said. Considering Bowen’s famous, not to say infamous, letter in 1921 complaining about Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, then recently performed at Queen’s Hall, the Duo Concertant remained an obstinately odd choice.

The all-Bowen second half began with the passionate Rhapsody Trio, which proved to be an extraordinarily compact work, packing a large amount of expression within its fifteen or so minutes, the material derived from the opening descending arpeggiated three-chord figure. The Suite in D (more properly a Sonata in four movements), dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, who played it several times (as did a number of other notable violinists) is another of those beautifully-crafted works that speaks of its time, but not so dated as to cause one to imagine the work’s genuine musical qualities are beyond resuscitation – certainly in such a fine performance as this.

One wished that music of such quality had drawn a bigger audience, but Bowen appears to be on the up at present, as he deserves to be.

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