York Bowen's Three Viola and Piano Masterworks for Lionel Tertis



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English violist Lionel Tertis (1876-1975) was the “father of the viola” and revolutionized viola playing as we know it today. Known for his beauty and depth of tone, Tertis’s techniques are evident in the many works he requested from composers in his quest to promote the viola as a solo instrument. York Bowen (1884-1961) contributed several works to Tertis’s mission and served as one of the violist’s primary piano collaborators from 1904 to around 1920. In addition to several short pieces and the Viola Concerto (1908), Bowen wrote three masterworks to perform with Tertis: Sonata No. 1 in C Minor (1905), Sonata No. 2 in F Major (1906), and Phantasy for Viola and Piano (1918).

This dissertation explores the background of the Tertis-Bowen collaboration and how the musicians’ similarities in musical aesthetic, attitude, and philosophy led to the creation of these three works. Chapter 1 covers Tertis’s early career as a viola soloist and identifies his revolutionary techniques and signature sound. Chapter 2 focuses on Bowen’s early career as a pianist and composer, his compositional style, and his collaboration with Tertis. The end of the chapter includes a comparison of the two musicians and offers several reasons why the partnership worked so well. Chapter 3 recounts the history of the two sonatas and Phantasy, while Chapter 4 includes musical examples showing the manifestation of Tertis’s signature sound and revolutionary techniques found in each of these three works. The historical and stylistic analysis in this document proves the value of these works, and also provides the evidence needed to equate them with those already in the standard viola repertoire.



Bowen, York, Tertis, Lionel, England, English musical renaissance, Phantasy, Viola