String Quartet No.2 in d minor, Op.41
York Bowen (1884-1961) was born London. His early training was as a pianist and he was considered a prodigy on that instrument. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music winning many prizes while he was there. By the time he was 25, he had obtained a professorship at the Academy. He enjoyed a successful career not only as a pianist but also as a conductor and composer as well as a teacher. Some critics have summed up his style as Rachmaninov with a tendancy toward Impressionism.
Bowen’s String Quartet No.2 in d minor won the Carnegie Trust Award and as a result was published in 1922. It was dedicated to the Philharmonic Quartet of London, then one of the leading groups before the public. The opening movement, Allegro assai, begins with an agitated, yearning theme, full of chromaticism. A second subject is quieter and sounds vaguely French before it becomes unmistakeably English. The lovely middle movement, Poco Lento, is somewhat sad and reflective and very romantic. The nervous finale, Presto, quite original, especially for its use of pizzicato throughout. The main theme is quick and jittery and often interrupted by loud choral notes. A slower subject, wayward in tonality, provides a fine contrast.