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BOWEN, York (1884-1961)


  • Cristina Ortiz, piano

York Bowen was described by Saint-Saëns as 'the most remarkable of the young British composers'. His 24 Preludes form a sequence of concise, richly expressive and directly communicative studies. The Berceuse, Op. 83 ranks amongst Bowen’s most intimate scores, while the sophisticated Suite Mignonne demands the most delicate of touches from the pianist.


24 Preludes, Op. 102 (1938) (00:51:38 )
Prelude No. 1 in C Major: Moderato appassionato (00:01:14)
Prelude No. 2 in C Minor: Andante tranquillo (00:02:26)
Prelude No. 3 in D-Flat Major: Andante grazioso (00:02:04)
Prelude No. 4 in C-Sharp Minor: Allegro con fuoco (00:01:35)
Prelude No. 5 in D Major: Allegro risoluto (00:01:35)
Prelude No. 6 in D Minor: Andante con moto (00:02:55)
Prelude No. 7 in E-Flat Major: Andantino amabile (00:02:05)
Prelude No. 8 in E-Flat Minor: Poco lento, serioso (00:02:20)
Prelude No. 9 in E Major: Allegro risoluto e ritmico (00:01:48)
Prelude No. 10 in E Minor: Moderato, a capriccio (00:01:31)
Prelude No. 11 in F Major: Andante con moto e grazioso (00:02:28)
Prelude No. 12 in F Minor: Allegro con fuoco (00:01:42)
Prelude No. 13 in G-Flat Major: Andante tranquillo (00:02:37)
Prelude No. 14 in F-Sharp Minor: Allegretto scherzando (00:01:23)
Prelude No. 15 in G Major: Allegretto grazioso (00:02:09)
Prelude No. 16 in G Minor: Moderato semplice (00:02:29)
Prelude No. 17 in A-Flat Major: Andante molto espressivo (00:02:09)
Prelude No. 18 in G-Sharp Minor: Allegro con fuoco (00:02:33)
Prelude No. 19 in A Major: Andantino con moto (00:02:09)
Prelude No. 20 in A Minor: Allegro con fuoco (00:01:33)
Prelude No. 21 in B-Flat Major: Andante piacevole (00:02:21)
Prelude No. 22 in B-Flat Minor: Allegro molto e con fuoco (00:01:32)
Prelude No. 23 in B Major: Andante con moto (00:01:56)
Prelude No. 24 in B Minor: Moderato serioso e tragico (00:05:04)
Berceuse in D Major, Op. 83 (ca. 1928) (00:04:06)
Suite for Piano No. 2, Op. 30: III. Barcarolle (ca.1919) (00:04:44)
Suite for Piano No. 4, Op. 39, "Suite Mignonne" () (00:08:48 )
I. Prelude: Moderato (00:03:03)
II. Valse: Un poco sostenuto (00:02:41)
III. Finale: Moto perpetuo - Veloce e leggiero (00:03:12)
Total Time: 01:09:24

The Artist

Cristina Ortiz began studies in her native Brazil before moving to Paris with a scholarship where she worked with Magda Tagliaferro. After winning a gold medal at the third Van Cliburn Competition in Texas, she went on to complete an invaluable period of tuition under the guidance of the legendary Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia before choosing to settle in London. In an international career her natural musicality, masterful craftsmanship and timeless commitment to refined playing have ensured her a place among the most respected pianists in the world. She has performed with leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony, Philharmonia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras amongst many others, and has collaborated with conductors such as Neeme Järvi, Mariss Jansons, Kurt Masur, André Previn and David Zinman. Beyond the platform, Cristina Ortiz has recorded some thirty albums featuring a wide range of repertoire on EMI Classics, Decca, Collins Classics and, most recently, on Intrada, Naxos and BIS. Between recitals and concerto performances, she is a committed teacher, giving masterclasses worldwide as well as private peripatetic lessons. She has recently held workshops at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Australian National Academy of Music, the National Centre for the Arts in Mexico, the Tokyo College of Music, and the Per Piano Solo Festival in Amandola, Italy, as well as throughout Britain.

The Composer

Described by Saint-Saëns as ‘the most remarkable of the young British composers’, York Bowen was widely known as a pianist and as a composer, his fame reaching its zenith in the years immediately preceding the First World War. The youngest of three sons, he was born on 22 February 1884 at Crouch Hill, London. His mother, an accomplished musician, taught him piano and harmony and by the age of eight he was studying at the Blackheath Conservatoire. In 1898 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano with Tobias Matthay and composition with Frederick Corder until 1905. A gifted student, he won many prizes for piano and composition, including the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Medal. Bowen was appointed Professor at the RAM in 1909, a post he held for the next fifty years. With regular performances at the Queen’s Hall and later at the Royal Albert Hall, his piano playing received critical acclaim for its technical and artistic excellence. In addition to his successful career as a solo (virtuoso) pianist, he formed celebrated duos with the great viola player Lionel Tertis and the pianist Harry Isaacs. Active as a musician to the last, Bowen died suddenly at his home in Hampstead at the age of 77 on 23 November 1961.

In a career which spanned some sixty years, Bowen was a prolific composer, writing over 160 works with opus numbers and several more which he left uncatalogued. Among his large-scale pieces are four symphonies and four piano concertos, the first of which he was invited to play at the Proms under Henry Wood. Other orchestral works include concertos for violin, viola and horn (given their premières by Marjorie Hayward, Lionel Tertis and Dennis Brain, respectively) and tone-poems such as The Lament of Tasso, first performed by Sir Henry Wood in August 1903. His proficiency on many orchestral instruments, notably horn and viola, served him well in his orchestral writing. Within his corpus of chamber music there are string quartets and piano trios, as well as a horn quintet and bass clarinet quintet. He wrote six piano sonatas dating from 1900 to 1961, together with sonatas for clarinet, flute, oboe, recorder, horn, violin, viola and cello. Influenced by the mastery of Tertis’s playing, Bowen did much to extend the repertoire of the viola (in addition to the aforementioned concerto and sonata, he also wrote a Fantasy for viola and a quartet for four violas). The piano, however, dominated his output to an exceptional degree for a twentieth-century British composer and his strikingly idiomatic writing for the instrument earned him the sobriquet of ‘the English Rachmaninov’.


“Cristina Ortiz certainly has the technique to burn, but also the stylistic awareness for this kind of music.” – Fanfare

“[Ortiz] has the full measure of Bowen’s style down pat; she is an outstanding musician” – Fanfare

“Imaginative, romantic, and passionate.” – American Record Guide

“A more endearing case for Bowen would be hard to imagine.” – Gramophone


“A delight for both the ears and the heart.” – Classica