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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, May 2012

While many of Bowen’s works remain unpublished and unperformed, the three works offered here have been well served on CD, with four recordings, all of them of merit. This set of performances by the Bridge Duo—violist Matthew Jones and pianist Michael Hampton…This new Naxos release is most notable for readings of calm reflectiveness that are very attractive, are very much in keeping with the genial character of the viola, and are generally achieved at no expense to the energy or excitement the works generate…by taking a more measured and carefully graded approach to these works, Jones and Hampton discover something deeper in them, and not just in the Fantasy. They lose nothing by eliminating some showiness, and tap further into a most affecting noble melancholy (as colleague William Zagorski put it) in the process.

What impresses most, though, is how these works respond to the varying approaches and still retain their appeal.

…the new Naxos is the least expensive, for those trying out Bowen’s chamber music for viola for the first time. The Bridge Duo will reward the small investment with music-making that is warmly expressive and deeply satisfying…The sound is immediate and glowing. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, May 2012

The Bridge Duo consists of violist Matthew Jones and pianist Michael Hampton, and from the very first notes of this CD you realize that you’re in for a treat. The music, in their capable hands, has such a tremendous sweep and drive that you are immediately sucked into the vortex. Yes, they’re that good. Jones’s tone and technique will simply take your breath away, and Hampton’s pianism has both rhythmic drive and a lyrical quality. As for the music, for those who haven’t heard it before, it is simply terrific. As I mentioned, Bowen was a master of modulations, often moving through a large number of keys in short stretches of music, and even in a work for nothing more than viola and piano he manages to find equally surprising textures. The second sonata is pretty much a jolly romp (though one that keeps you tuned in to the surprising turns of phrase), but in the first sonata and the Fantasy, in three connected sections that act as movements, his sense of drama and imaginative use of thematic material was never more evident. These are great works, regardless of the time in which they were written (the Fantasy as late as 1918, by which time everyone else was using modes, whole-tone scales, polytonality, and/or atonality), and they simply jump out at you.

These three works were all recorded before by violist James Boyd and pianist Bengt Forsberg on the Dutton label…They’re good musicians, with a fine sense of style, but by comparison with Jones, Boyd has a somewhat tight sound, more violinish than viola-ish, and Forsberg in particular lacks the proper sweep for the music. These performances have that sweep, and also, in the person of Jones, the finest violist I’ve heard since William Primrose last laid down his instrument. (In England he is hailed as a worthy successor to the legendary Lionel Tertis, for whom these pieces were written.) If you already know Bowen and these pieces, this is an irresistible disc at the budget price. If you don’t know Bowen, this is a hell of a great place to start! © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, March 2012

This is an excellent well-filled disc showcasing three large-scale but instantly appealing works.

The Bridge Duo prove to be absolutely first rate advocates both technically and stylistically. Jones has a slightly leaner and more agile tone than some violists which suits the febrile mood of the music well and he is well partnered by pianist Michael Hampton.

Admirers of Bowen will not have any pause for thought and certainly people who enjoy fine recitals of viola and piano playing will find much to give pleasure here. The Phantasy proves itself to be a powerful work… © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jeremy Dibble
Gramophone, March 2012

a refreshing and varied sequel to the Brahms viola sonatas… Bowen’s effulgent and often suave harmonic language is at once more opulent and extrovert…Matthew Jones and Michael Hampton’s enthusiastic and sympathetic performances bring out this aspect of Bowen’s style in spades… © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Carlos María Solare
The Strad, February 2012

With perfectly gauged transitions, tempo relationships and rubato, the Bridge Duo demonstrates an unobtrusive, no-nonsense way with music that can easily be all over the place.

…Jones’s musicianship…is of a…subtle hue. He and Michael Hampton never go over the top, a temptation their colleagues do not always resist, while still giving places like the Phantasy’s unashamedly Rachmaninoffian climax their full value, aided by Naxos’s resounding recording. © 2012 The Strad Read complete review

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, February 2012

The Bridge Duo—violist Matthew Jones and pianist Michael Hampton—are fully up to the challenge in a beautifully-recorded disc that makes a fine companion to their recital of English Music for Viola (Naxos 8.572579). © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

James Norris
Audiophilia, January 2012

These works show a very fluent and inspired feel for the sound and range of the Viola and whilst the mood of contemplation is never far away in these works there is plenty of virtuosity and the listener is never left without a strong melody for very long. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2011

The record industry is presently bringing the music of York Bowen back from the dead, the present disc proof of his place among the outstanding British composers of the 21st century.  An extremely gifted performing musician who, so we are told, could play to a degree of competence every instrument of the orchestra, was to make his career as a pianist and composer, his works played by the famous musicians of the day. Wedded to tonality he was swimming against the tide of atonality beloved of the establishment, and, after his death in 1961, his music quickly dropped from the repertoire. The two Viola Sonatas both date from 1905, when the composer was just twenty-one, and were written for, and first performed by Lionel Tertis, the world famous viola player of the time. Their roots were in the style of the late Romantics, the big sweeping melodies highly attractive and readily memorable. You feel he had in mind the big tone of Tertis’s instrument, much of the writing in the lower fruity end of a viola range. At times you hear Dvořák, particularly in the first sonata’s slow movement, at others the influences of Elgar are there, though it is still a very personal voice. Both are in the conventional three movements, the pianist’s role being to add weighty support. The Phantasy dates from 13 years later and though in one continuous movement it is divided into three sections. Somewhat lighter in weight than the sonatas, it is a score of sumptuous beauty. Matthew Jones enjoys a career both in chamber groups and as a soloist…he has an innate feeling for this period of British music. Michael Hampton adds substantial piano accompaniments. Most strongly recommended.

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