The Viola Music of York Bowen: Lionel Tertis, York Bowen, and the Rise of the Viola in Early Twentieth-Century England
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The viola owes its current reputation largely to the tireless efforts of Lionel Tertis (1876-1975), who, perhaps more than any other individual, brought the viola to light as a solo instrument. Prior to the twentieth century, numerous composers are known to have played the viola, and some even preferred it, but none possessed the drive or saw the necessity to establish it as an equal solo counterpart to the violin or cello. Likewise, no performer before Tertis had established themselves as a renowned exponent of the viola. Tertis made it his life’s work to bring the viola to the fore, and his musical prowess and technical ability on the instrument gave him the tools to succeed. Tertis was primarily a performer, thus collaboration with composers also comprised a necessary element of his viola crusade. He commissioned works from several British composers, including one of the first and most prolific composers for the viola, York Bowen (1884-1961). The collaboration between Tertis and Bowen resulted in over a dozen works for the viola, many of which they performed together in London and other parts of Europe to critical and popular acclaim (Bowen was also an accomplished pianist). Despite their initial popularity, Bowen’s works are often excluded from present-day discussions of “standard” viola repertoire. This thesis discusses the impact of the partnership between Tertis and Bowen on the development of the viola as a solo instrument, and argues that Bowen’s body of work for the viola is one of the most significant by any composer in terms of both quantity and quality. Rather than covering only a few of Bowen’s large-scale works, this thesis examines each of Bowen’s viola works in detail. Reviews of Tertis’s and Bowen’s performances comprise a large portion of the source material, as well as scores, recordings, and other writings on Tertis and Bowen. The idiomatic writing and enduring musical quality of Bowen’s viola works, as well as their historical significance as part of Tertis’s crusade, demonstrate that they deserve to be included among standard repertoire for modern violists.
Table of Contents
Literature review -- Lionel Tertis, York Bowen,and an exceptional performer-composer collaboration -- The two sonatas for viola and piano -- A romantic viola concerto -- The three fantasy works -- Shorter works and arrangements -- The continuing legacy of Tertis and Bowen -- Appendix A. Summaries of York Bowen's viola work -- Appendix B. Selected public performances by Lionel Tertis and York Bowen -- Appendix C. Selected Performances by Lionel Tertis of music by York Bowen
M.M. (Master of Music)