At a glance
Bowen was outstanding: his delivery of the Evangelist’s narrative struck the ideal balance of clarity, dramatic flow and tenderness.Rian Evans, The Guardian
Acclaimed for the clarity and beauty of his singing and dynamic stage presence, British tenor Gwilym Bowen performs internationally with orchestras and ensembles of the highest calibre. Frequently described by reviewers as the “stand-out performance” (Independent, Guardian, Limelight Magazine) he is also a “Mozart tenor to the life and a little bit more” (Arts Desk) and celebrated for his interpretations of the J.S. Bach Passions “the most immersed I’ve seen an Evangelist in the drama” (bachtrack).
Acclaimed for the clarity and beauty of his singing and dynamic stage presence, British tenor Gwilym Bowen performs internationally with orchestras and ensembles of the highest calibre. The years 2020-21 being somewhat disrupted, his most recent engagements include James MacMillan’s All the Hills and Vales Along at the Edinburgh Festival; Dussek’s Messe Solemnelle with the Academy of Ancient Music; a Purcell programme, ‘Gabriel – An Entertainment with Trumpet’ with The English Concert, Alison Balsom and Harry Bicket at Barbican, Messiah with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stephen Layton and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Oslo Philharmonic under François Leleux.
With repertoire ranging from the Baroque to the contemporary, with a specialist interest in Bach, Monteverdi and Handel his operatic highlights include Valletto L’incoronazione di Poppea for Angers-Nantes Opéra; Eurimaco/Giove Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria at The Grange Festival; Damon Acis and Galatea and multiple roles in Poppea and Ulisse with Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican, the Ateneul Roman in Bucharest and Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice; Sylph in Rameau Zaïs with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Queen Elizabeth Hall and Father in Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe with The Mozartists. Opera roles have also included Tom Rakewell The Rake’s Progress and Pelléas Pelléas et Mélisande; forthcoming engagements include debuts at Opera de Lille, L’atelier lyrique de Tourcoing and Opéra de Montréal, and a return to The Grange Festival as Snout A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In concert, Gwilym has sung Evangelist in the St John Passion with John Butt and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and the St Matthew Passion for De Nederlandse Bachvereniging and Auckland Philharmonia, Bach cantatas with Masaaki Suzuki at Lincoln Center; Monteverdi and Schütz with the Dunedin Consort; Christmas Oratorio across Australia with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Das Lied von der Erde with the City of London Sinfonia; Ernst Wilhelm Wolf’s Passionsoratorium with Die Kölner Akademie; Messiah with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Hanover Band and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; and Bach Mass in B Minor with the OAE at St John’s, Smith Square. His recordings include the St John Passion arias with De Nederlandse Bachvereniging and in a world-first Welsh language translation, Mass in B Minor with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge and OAE for Hyperion, Petrus in Handel’s Brockes-passion with AAM and Concerto Copenhagen, and the world premiere recording of Dussek’s Messe solemnelle.
Born in Hereford, Gwilym was a choral scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with double-First class honours in Music, before studying at the Royal Academy of Music.
Bowen made the kind of impact not heard here since the lone Messiah appearance in Seattle of the great English tenor Philip Langridge, back in the late 1970s. Lyrical and agile, with considerable expressive depth, Bowen delivered every phrase as if it had just occurred to him, with unfailingly expressive spontaneity. His Thy rebuke was positively heart-rendingSeattle Times
The hero of the entire Coventry Cathedral performance evening was the tenor Gwilym Bowen, in the role pioneered by Peter Pears. Bowen could really bellow out Owen’s texts where necessary. But was there ever a more sensitive performance of “Move him into the sun”? I doubt itChurch Times
Bowen was outstanding: his delivery of the Evangelist’s narrative struck the ideal balance of clarity, dramatic flow and tenderness. In the aria "Frohe Hirten", where the shepherds are urged to hasten to see the Christ child in the manger, his expressive tenor proved to have great agility, matching that of the fine flute obbligatoThe Guardian
something of a rising gloryThe Times (London)
The Evangelist, Gwilym Bowen, was a consistently intense presence, plangent and vocally at ease even in the highest-lying sections of his part. This was the most immersed I’ve seen an Evangelist in the drama, at turns grief-stricken and desperate...yet all felt in service of the music, never detracting from itbacktrack
If Bach's St Matthew Passion were his opera manqué, then Gwilym Bowen's Evangelist achieved divo status. He delivered narrative as living drama, never missing a detail or inflectionNew Zealand Herald
I relished Bowen’s nicely plangent tone which also has underlying strength. This is very accomplished singingMusic Web International
All of this glory was outshone by young tenor Gwilym Bowen...Vibrant, expressive, agile and dramatic, this crowned an astounding array of vocal quality throughout the performanceLimelight Magazine
In Berkeley's culinary comedy, his foppish Gallic charm as Prince Phillippe was matched by the refinement and fluidity of his singingOpera Magazine
the Mozart tenor to the life and a little bit moreThe Arts Desk
As Sellem, Gwilym Bowen offered a very different sense of humour, utterly captivating, never outstaying its welcome, and likewise never at the expense of excellent musical values, line and attention to the words exemplarySeen & Heard International
Bowen articulated Sorley’s brutally honest account of war with heart-felt passionThe Scotsman
attractively sung and superbly acted by Donna Bateman and Gwilym Bowen: their “Dolce, mia vita” was another of those moments which touched the sublimebachtrack
excellently facetious in the farcical, schoolboy sequences which punctuate the drama, his dynamic phrasing rises to full-bodied heightsôlyrix
Tenor Gwilym Bowen was a superb Peter, capturing the diverse and contradictory emotions experienced by the troubled disciple in an extended sequence in the first part of the Passion. Anger at Judas’ betrayal of Jesus blazed through the running lines of “Poison and fire, lightning and flood”, accompanied by agile unison strings; his avowal that he would not forsake Christ, “Take me with you, cowardly crowd” was sincere and soft, the fine, unwavering line complemented by Sarah McMahon’s eloquent cello obbligatoOpera Today
Gwilym Bowen’s responses are insistent yet instilled with a beautiful pathos and sincerity, particularly as he falls in register…Bowen’s tenor burns with self-loathing, the text fiercely declaimed, the rapid divisions clear, when Peter calls on ‘poison and fire, lightning and flood’ to ‘engulf the false betrayer’, as the perfectly tuned ensemble of unison strings race and roar; subsequently, the sincerity of his simple plea to share Jesus’ suffering and fate is strengthened by the eloquence of the continuo cello’s melodic echoes and elaborations. If the angularity and fierceness of the accompaniment to Peter’s self-lacerating outburst does not make one squirm with shame, then Bowen’s piercing delivery of the text and Duarte’s mocking oboe obbligato surely willOpera Today
There are...an unreasonably large number of pitfalls when it comes to putting on Rameau. Sourcing decent hautes-contre (high-lying tenors) is one. The best was a stunning cameo from a wriggly Gwilym Bowen in ZaïsThe Spectator
We had in tenor Gwilym Bowen a seraphic herald of good tidings: looking with golden curls like a Botticelli angel, his exquisitely gentle ‘Comfort ye’ hung in the air like a beam of light...his melting tone provided a fine contrast with the robust contributions of seasoned bass Neal DaviesBBC Music Magazine
Selected Discography —
Messe Solemnelle - Dussek
Brockes Passion - Handel
Brockes Passion - Handel
Mass in B Minor - J.S. Bach
Related Media —
- Robin Tyson