Bowen’s compositional style is widely considered as ‘Romantic’ and his works are often characterized by their individuality and rich harmonic language. Born in Crouch Hill, London, Bowen’s father was the owner of the renowned Whiskey distillers Bowen and Mckechnie. The youngest of three sons, Bowen began piano and harmony lessons with his mother at an early age. His talent was recognised almost immediately and he soon began his musical education at the North Metropolitan College of Music. He subsequently went on to study at the Blackheath Conservatoire with Alfred Izard. In 1898, at the age of fourteen, Bowen gained an Erard scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music.
He studied there until 1905, learning composition with Frederick Corder and piano with Tobias Matthay. Whilst studying at the Royal Academy of Music Bowen won numerous prizes including the Worshipful Company of Musicians Medal. In 1907 Bowen was awarded a fellowship to the Royal Academy of Music and two years later was appointed as professor. In 1912 Bowen married Sylvia Dalton, a singer and the daughter of a Somerset vicar. Their son Philip was born a year later.
During the First World War Bowen played in the Scots Guard Regimental Band but during service in France he contracted pneumonia and was forced to return to the UK. Bowen returned to composing and performing after the war and continued to work as a teacher, examiner, lecturer and adjudicator. He taught at the Tobias Matthay Piano School for over forty years and remained a professor at the Royal Academy of Music until his death in 1961. Bowen was awarded several prizes for composition including the Sunday Express Prize for March RAF (1919) and the Chappell’s Orchestral Suite Prize and Hawkes and Co. Prize for Intermezzo (1920).
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