Sir Frederic Hymen Cowen: Symphony No. 5 in F Major
Sir Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852-1935)
Symphony No. 5 in F Major
I. Molto sostenuto e maestoso - Allegro, poco tranquillo 0:00
II. Allegretto, quasi allegro 14:27
III. Adagio, molto sostenuto 20:12
IV. Allegro con fuoco, ma deciso 31:58
BBC Concert Orchestra
John Andrews, conductor
Sir Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852 – 1935), was a British pianist, conductor and composer. Cowen was born Hymen Frederick Cohen at 90 Duke Street, Kingston, Jamaica, the fifth and last child of Frederick Augustus Cohen and Emily Cohen née Davis. At the age of four years Frederic was brought to England, where his father became treasurer to the opera at Her Majesty's Opera, now Her Majesty's Theatre, and private secretary to William Humble Ward, 11th Lord Ward (1817–1885). The family initially lived at 11 Warwick Crescent, London, in the area known as Little Venice. His first teacher was Henry Russell, and his first published composition, Minna-waltz, appeared when he was only six years old. He produced his first published operetta, Garibaldi, at the age of eight. With the help of the Earl of Dudley, he studied the piano with Julius Benedict, and composition with John Goss. His first public appearance as a pianist was as an accompanist in one of his own early songs sung by Mrs Drayton at a concert in Brighton in the early 1860s. His first genuine public recital was given on 17 December 1863 at the Bijou Theatre of the old Her Majesty's Opera House, and in the following year he performed Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in D minor at a concert given at Dudley House, Park Lane, the London home of the Earl of Dudley. At the same venue a year later he premiered his Pianoforte Trio in A major with Joseph Joachim playing the violin part. By the Autumn of 1865 it was the judgment of his instructors, Julius Benedict and John Goss, that they could do little more to further his musical education and recommended that he study in Germany. By coincidence the second competition for the Mendelssohn Scholarship was due to be held that gave its winner three years of tuition at the Leipzig Conservatorium. Cowen attended the examination and won the prize, but his parents intervened, as they were not prepared to give up control of him, as stipulated by the terms of the prize. Instead, they agreed to send him to the same institution, but as an independent student. Charles Swinnerton Heap was awarded the prize in his place. At Leipzig, overseen by Ernst Friedrich Eduard Richter, Cowen studied under Moritz Hauptmann (harmony and counterpoint), Ignaz Moscheles (piano), Carl Reinecke (composition) and Ferdinand David (ensemble work). He also came into contact with Salomon Jadassohn and Ernst Wenzel, and took some private piano lessons with Louis Plaidy. Cowen's fellow students and companions in Leipzig included Swinnerton Heap, Johan Svendsen, Oscar Beringer and Stephen Adams. Returning home on the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian War, he appeared as a composer for the orchestra in an Overture in D minor played at Alfred Mellon's Promenade Concerts at Covent Garden on 8 September 1866. In the following autumn he went to Berlin, where he studied composition under Friedrich Kiel and Carl Taubert, and took piano lessons from Carl Tausig, enrolling at the academy created by Julius Stern, known as the Stern'sches Konservatorium. A symphony (his first in C minor) and a piano concerto (in A minor) were given in St. James's Hall on 9 December 1869, and from that moment Cowen began to be recognised as primarily a composer, his talents as a pianist being subordinate, although his public appearances were numerous for some time afterwards. Cowen's career, both as composer and conductor, is now almost forgotten. Although he regarded himself primarily as a symphonist, he was most successful in lighter orchestral pieces when treating fantastic or fairy subjects, where his gifts for graceful melody and colourful orchestration are shown to best advantage. Whether in his cantatas for female voices, his charming Sleeping Beauty, his Water Lily or his pretty overture, The Butterfly's Ball (1901), he succeeds in finding graceful expression for the poetical idea. His dance music, such as is to be found in various orchestral suites, is refined, original and admirably instrumented. Much of his more serious music is commendable rather than inspired and seldom successful in portraying the graver aspects of emotion. Indeed, his choral works, written for the numerous musical festivals around Victorian and Edwardian Britain, typify the public taste of his time. Of his 300 or so songs, they encompass everything from the popular ballad to the high art song, the latter of which led him to be described as the 'English Schubert' in 1898. Indeed, the vogue of his semi-sacred songs has been widespread.
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