YORK BOWEN Edwin, Clarinet Sonata in F minor, Op.109

Allegro moderato 
Allegretto poco scherzando 
Finale. Allegro molto 

York Bowen was a virtuoso pianist (in 1925 he made the first ever recording of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto) and had a parallel career as a prolific composer whose output included instrumental works written for many distinguished soloists, among them violinist Fritz Kreisler, oboist Léon Goossens, violist Lionel Tertis and horn player Denis Brain. When York Bowen heard the clarinettist Pauline Juler give the first performance of Gerald Finzi’s Five Bagatelles at one of the National Gallery Concerts in January 1943, he was immediately inspired to compose a work for her. The result was the Clarinet Sonata in F minor, given its premiere by Juler and the composer later that year. 


Starting with a wide-ranging theme for the clarinet (extending over two and a half octaves), this vibrant, lyrical work explores the technical possibilities of the clarinet with consummate skill. The second theme is closely related to the first, and the movement ends with a coda based on the work’s opening. The Scherzetto is a capricious counterpart to the first movement and elements of it are also heard at the start of the finale, marked Allegro molto. This is a rondo in which music from the opening movement is also recalled before an imposing coda brings this remarkable post-romantic sonata to a powerful close.  


© Nigel Simeone 


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