KEVIN BOWYER was born in Southend-on-Sea in January 1961, and studied with Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, David Sanger, Virginia Black, and Paul Steinitz. In his early career he won first prizes in five international organ competitions, and his 1987 world premiere of Kaikhosru Sorabji’s two-hour solo, Symphony for Organ, considered “impossible” ever since its publication in 1925, helped to cement his reputation as a player of contemporary music and music of extreme technical complexity. Other U.K. premieres have included works by Brian Ferneyhough (Sieben Sterne), Michael Finnissy (Second Organ Symphony), Anthony Gilbert (Halifenu Vine Dance), Iain Matheson (Background Music), Anthony Payne (Reflections in the Sea of Glass), Charles Wuorinen (Natural Fantasy), Milton Babbitt (Manifold Music), Chris Dench (compostela/finisterre), and Iannis Xenakis (Gmeeoorh).
In Europe, Bowyer has played solo and concerto concerts in most of the major venues and festivals. Tours abroad have taken him throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan. He has released a great number of solo CDs, many of which have won awards. These include many landmark recordings of contemporary music as well as the complete organ music of J. S. Bach (on 29 CDs) and music by Alkan, Brahms, Schumann, Reubke, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Messiaen, Alain, etc. Jonathan Wearn, writing for MusicWeb International, described him as “one of the world’s hardiest and most formidable virtuosos…” and Gramophone magazine described him as “unique.” He has a long list of upcoming recording projects on the Toccata Classics and Bute labels.
Bowyer has lectured and given master classes in many countries. He is Organist to the University of Glasgow and runs Glasgow Pipeworks, an innovative series of three concerts each year dedicated to new commissions and rare and first performances. The Sorabji Organ Works Project, a five-year plan supported by Glasgow University Trust, aims to have a complete critical edition of all three of the Sorabji organ symphonies in print by June 2013 in addition to live performances of all three works. Recordings of the complete Sorabji organ works will be released on Altarus Records, who will also produce a DVD documenting the entire project. Sorabji’s massive and largely unplayed Second Organ Symphony (1929-1932, about 6½ hours) is scheduled for performance in June 2009. The Third Organ Symphony (1949-1954, also about 6½ hours, also unplayed), reputedly the most complex and technically demanding organ work ever composed, is currently undergoing conversion from the manuscript into a workable performing score and is scheduled to be surfacing in public performance in early summer 2013.
Bowyer’s article in the Incorporated Association of Organists’ Millennium Book, “Twentieth Century European Organ Music – A Toast,” cast as a play set in a Cotswolds pub, was described by one reviewer as “quite simply the best piece of writing on organ music that I have ever seen.”
His other interests include reading, obscure cinema, real ale, malt whiskies, and looking at the sea. His favorite pastime is sleeping.