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Herbert Norman Howells (1892-1983)

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Howells: Choral Music

Howells: Choral Music


Howells:

A Sequence for St Michael

A Hymn for St Cecilia

O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Te Deum & Benedictus (St George's, Windsor 1952)

I love all beauteous things

Salve Regina

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (New College Oxford)

Three Carol Anthems

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (Collegium Regale, 1945)


Recorded as Malcolm Archer’s farewell from Wells Cathedral prior to his prestigious appointment to St Paul’s in London, this generously filled album presents some of Howells’s best choral works, some well known, others less so.

In 1944 Howells wrote a set of Morning Canticles for King’s College, Cambridge. With the Evening Canticles recorded here coming the following year, the ‘Coll. Reg.’ settings immediately set the benchmark for twentieth-century liturgical composition and led to the composer being besieged by requests from cathedrals and collegiate chapels for other such ‘custom-built’ settings. It was the composer’s innate understanding of the individual characteristics—acoustic, architecture and choral timbre—of each foundation which made these works so successful and popular. This programme includes the Morning Canticles written for St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and the Evening Canticles which constitute the ‘New College Service’.

Ever the master of the choral miniature, the Three Carol-Anthems are among Howells’s most perennially popular works, having been recorded and performed across the globe. Several of the other pieces included here are less famous, but all display their composer’s inimitable mastery of form and choral technique.

“The phrasing of Malcolm Archer’s Wells Cathedral Choir is unobtrusively intelligent, Howells’ long, powerfully expanding crescendos emerging as naturally evolving arcs in the ongoing argument. Tonal blend is excellent, and there is no superficial straining for effect whatsoever. This is genuinely devotional singing, technique placed at the disposal of the music’s spiritual message. Rupert Gough’s organ accompaniments are exemplary” BBC Music Magazine

“Rupert Gough’s accompaniments are tastefully executed and help make this portrait of the range and diversity of a side to Howells all too often taken for granted a highly worthwhile release” International Record Review

“The sound is focused and radiant, the ensemble immaculate, and Rupert Gough provides charismatic organ accompaniment” The Scotsman

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Howells: Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service'

Howells: Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service'

& other choral works


Howells:

Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service'

Psalm 122

Psalm 121

Behold, O God our defender

Rhapsody for Organ No. 1 in D flat major, Op. 17 No. 1

Owain Park (organ)

I love all beauteous things


Howells’ ‘Coll Reg’ is one of the glories of the Anglican repertoire—a relative outsider to the church providing one of its greatest adornments of the twentieth century. Stephen Layton and his award-winning choir took the trip to Coventry Cathedral for this very special recording.

“This is a stunning recording in so many respects. Attention to dynamic detail, especially the hushed quality of the Magnificat, brings out the ethereal, not to say numinous character of this highly original miniature…the darker, modal hues of the Te Deum and Jubilate benefit from the lavish role of the Coventry Cathedral organ…while moments of more characteristic Anglican prayerfulness are shaped by Layton and the Trinity choir with true, intimate poetry” Gramophone Magazine, April 2016

“The excellent singing is full-bodied and lustrous throughout, with just the right sense of momentum. Particular mention for tenor Jamie Roberts for his plangent Nunc dimittis.” The Guardian, 3rd April 2016 ****

“The Evening Service boasts some beautifully controlled singing from the sopranos in particular, their deft tapering of quiet dynamics in the Magnificat heightening the introspective quality of Howells's setting…you could take dictation from the two Psalm settings, so clean is the diction, so revealing Layton's phrasing and punctuation…you'll go a long way to find performances that understand [this] music better, or wear their sensitivity so lightly” BBC Music Magazine, May 2016 *****

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Choral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - April 2016

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Howells: Hymnus Paradisi

Howells: Hymnus Paradisi


Howells:

Hymnus Paradisi

An English Mass


“The Hymnus Paradisi is music awash with ecstasy, and the listener may resist becoming part of this swimmingly coloured dream. But further listening proves this is not so: that is, the better you know it, the more you see in it of form, energy and pain. The pain is real enough, as biographical facts attest. Howells wrote it as a method of escape from 'the crippling numbness of loss', as he described the effect upon him of his son's death from polio at the age of ten. The work was so full of the emotion of that time that for many years it had to remain private, and it was only with the approach of the 15th anniversary of the death that he showed it to Vaughan Williams and arrangements were made for its inclusion in the Three Choirs Festival of 1950.
A strong performance helps, and Vernon Handley brings real intensity: there is a feeling for the dramatic quality in the score, the crises and relaxations, without losing sight of the essential lyricism. The soloists on the recording sing with sensitivity and pleasing tone.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Howells: Lambert's Clavichord & Howells' Clavichord

Howells: Lambert's Clavichord & Howells' Clavichord


Howells:

Lambert's Clavichord - Twelve pieces for clavichord, Op. 41

Howells' Clavichord - Twenty pieces for clavichord or piano


John McCabe (piano)

“Anyone who enjoys, say, Grieg's Holberg Suite or Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances will adore these treasurable, miniature distillations of the English Tudor tradition. Devoted performances from McCabe, glowingly recorded.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005

“John McCabe's performance (here on a modern piano) makes a convincing case for these sadly-neglected gems.” David Smith, Presto Classical, October 2014

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Howells: Requiem & other works

Howells: Requiem & other works


Howells:

A Hymn for St Cecilia

Simon Bland (organ)

Salve Regina

Hannah Partridge (soprano)

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (Gloucester, 1946)

Jeremy Cole (organ)

Take him, earth, for cherishing

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (St Paul's, 1951)

Simon Bland (organ)

Requiem

Gwilym Bowen (tenor), Laurence Williams (bass), Hannah Partridge (soprano) & Amy Lyddon-Towl (alto)

All my hope on God is founded

arr. John Rutter


Herbert Howells was acutely sensitive to the transience of life, having witnessed the loss of friends and contemporaries in the First World War and encountered deep personal tragedy when his son Michael died of polio at the age of just nine. And so a mood of elegiac yearning inhabits much of his choral music: the austere, lovely a cappella Requiem, and the elegant Take him, earth, for cherishing, commissioned to commemorate the death of President John F Kennedy, here lovingly performed by the young voices of Trinity College Choir, Cambridge, in Hyperion’s Record of the Month for April 2012.

And yet Howells could write magnificently thrilling music too, as demonstrated by the fresh brilliance of A Hymn for St Cecilia, the spine-tingling grandeur of the St Paul’s Service, or the life-affirming hymn ‘All my hope on God is founded’, here further sweetened with a descant by John Rutter.

“Layton's performances have exactly the poise and careful moulding that this rather fragile, deeply felt music needs.” The Guardian, 29th March 2012 ***

“Hyperion's disc...is all more impressive for dispelling the clouds of dissonance that have given Howell the bad name of a meandering mystic and letting us hear what a fine ear he had...Had good it is to hear the St Paul Service not swallowed up by the dome that cathedral but still buttressed by a mighty Willis beast, belonging in this case to Lincoln...This is a perfect disc of its kind.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012

“In a work intended to console, it's important that the actual sound the choir makes is warmly consoling. It certainly is in this new Trinity College recording of Howells's 1932 Requiem...It's fascinating to note, too, the difference undergraduate voices make in this music...The purity of vibrato-free voices is again a major plus-point at the opening of the Gloucester Service...A superb one-stop introduction to Howells's choral music.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2012 *****

“Trinity's recording allow[s] the music to be served but not overwhelmed by the choir's first-rate technical ability...The Gloucester service is relaxed and smoothly flowing, though I do wonder whether it's all just a little too coolly handled” International Record Review, June 2012

“a glorious celebration of Howells' sacred output...Gorgeously sung throughout, this is repertoire perfectly suited to Trinity Choir's pure, chorister-like sound. Their graceful, dignified reading of the Requiem, framed within the wonderful acoustic of Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel, is one to cherish.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 16th June 2012

“Layton's young, mixed choir at Trinity College Cambridge have the perfect voices for this music - fresh, yet with reserves of richness and depth that pay dividends.” David Smith, Presto Classical, October 2014

GGramophone Awards 2012

Best of Category - Choral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2012

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - June 2012

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Howells: Requiem & Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor

Howells: Requiem & Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor


Howells:

Requiem

Janet Coxwell (soprano), Michael Chance (countertenor), Philip Salmon (tenor) & Jonathan Best (baritone)

Take him, earth, for cherishing

Vaughan Williams:

Mass in G minor

Mary Seers (soprano), Michael Chance (countertenor), Philip Salmon (tenor) & Jonathan Best (baritone)

Te Deum in G


‘A moving and impressive addition to the a cappella repertoire’ (The Daily Telegraph)

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Howells: The Winchester Service & other late works

Howells: The Winchester Service & other late works


Howells:

Jubilate Deo 'St Peter ad Vincula'

Thee will I love

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (Winchester, 1967)

Rhapsody for Organ No. 4 'Bene Psallite in Vociferatione'

Simon Bell (organ)

Come, my soul

William Kendall (tenor)

Te Deum (St Mary Redcliffe)

Coventry Antiphon

Flourish for a Bidding

Simon Bell (organ)

Let all the world in every corner sing

The fear of the Lord

Sing we merrily unto God our strength


Hyperion’s previous recordings with Winchester Cathedral Choir are among the jewels in its choral collection. Now the label begins a new relationship with this ancient foundation and its latest director of music, Andrew Lumsden. Their new disc features a composer who was at the centre of the English twentieth-century choral tradition.

Herbert Howells’ is a unique and distinctive voice in church music and it is his lyrical anthem Like as the Hart and his compositions of the 1940s and 50s for which he is most known and celebrated. However, his late works are equal in beauty and intensity and it is these that are featured on this superb recording. They are often over-looked as a result of their difficulty but Winchester Cathedral Choir reveal them as unjustly neglected gems.

The Winchester Service, written in 1969, has its roots in plainchant and demonstrates the composer’s chromatic sophistication and the incredible depth of his harmonic palette. The choir display a clear affinity with the composer. They perform with sensitivity and precision and their glorious sound is quintessentially English.

“this recording by a radiant Winchester Cathedral Choir urges a thorough reappraisal [of the lesser-known works]. The long, fluid lines, startling cadences and massive chords which are so unique to Howells are all here in "their" service, and they delight in some smaller works, particularly "Thee Will I Love" from 1970, with Simon Bell adding some delicious organ solos.” The Observer, 29th May 2011

“What this CD underlines is that, for all their trickiness of execution, with a harmonic range from the archaic to the chromatic, these pieces are vintage Howells. And far from constituting “old man’s music”, works like Antiphon and Exultate Deo express a joyful vitality. The performances, conducted by Andrew Lumsden with organist Simon Bell, thrive on the radiant Winchester Cathedral acoustic.” Financial Times, 16th July 2011 ***

“The line-up of boy choristers can compete in terms of strength and incision with the best among their cathedral and collegiate peers. Their tonal richness and compelling collective conviction, outstanding in Come, my Soul and Howells's virtuosic Te Deum, bear witness to a choral institution clearly on the rise...Winchester's assistant director of music, Simon Bell, also commands attention with bold, imaginatively voiced organ playing.” Classic FM Magazine, August 2011 ****

“This is one of the most beautiful CDs of choral music you're likely to hear...the magnificent Winchester Cathedral Choir give performances of near-perfection that sound completely effortless...There's an ideal blend and balance between upper and lower voices, and the trebles have a warm, glowing brightness...Simon Bell provides impeccable accompaniments with intimate colouring. He also displays tremendous virtuosity in the two organ solos” Gramophone Magazine, September 2011

“The Winchester Cathedral Choir is first-rate: intelligently responsive to texts, phrasing naturally shaped and with near flawless ensemble and dynamic control, all admirably demonstrated throughout...These are uniformly excellent performances and the recording quality is detailed yet superbly spacious.” International Record Review, July/August 2011

“The performances of the Winchester Cathedral Choir are so good that you hardly register the need to 'assess' them - exactly as it should be in devotional music. That's a huge tribute to the state of singing at the cathedral, and to Andrew Lumsden, whoe directs it. A marvellous CD, beautifully planned and executed.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2011 *****

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Adeste fideles

Adeste fideles

Christmas music from Westminster Cathedral


Cornelius:

The Three Kings

Darke:

In the Bleak Midwinter

Gauntlett:

Once in royal David's city

Gruber, F:

Silent Night

Hadley, P:

I sing of a maiden

Howells:

Sing Lullaby

Kirkpatrick:

Away in a manger

Mendelssohn:

Hark! the herald angels sing

Niles:

I wonder as I wander

Parry:

Welcome, Yule!

Tavener:

The Lamb

trad.:

Gabriel's Message ('The angel Gabriel from heaven came')

O come, o come, Emmanuel

Ding dong! merrily on high

A maiden most gentle

O little town of Bethlehem (Forest Green)

In dulci jubilo

Of the Father's love begotten

The holly and the ivy

Wade, J F:

O come, all ye faithful

Warlock:

Bethlehem Down


'An extremely well-sung traditional carol collection. The concert makes a great appeal by the quality of the singing and the beautiful digital recording
Penguin Guide

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Christmas at St John’s

Christmas at St John’s

A sequence of music leading from the darkness of Advent to the blazing light of Christmas, Epiphany and beyond


 

Chapel Bell

Bingham, J:

The clouded heaven

Goldschmidt, O:

A tender shoot has started

Gregorian Chant:

Rorate caeli

O sapientia

O Adonai

O Radix Jesse

O clavis David

O oriens

O rex gentium

O Emmanuel

Hodie Christus natus est

Holst:

This have I done for my true love, H128, Op. 34 No. 1

Howells:

A Spotless Rose

Lauridsen:

O magnum mysterium

Naylor, E W:

Vox dicentis: Clama

Pott:

Lullay my liking

Rutter:

There is a flower

trad.:

O come, o come, Emmanuel

Lo, he comes with clouds descending

Wade, J F:

O come, all ye faithful

Warlock:

Bethlehem Down

arranged David Hill


“The John’s choir, fielding what sounds like a vintage crop of trebles, sings throughout with its trademark mixture of refinement and gutsy energy” The Telegraph

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English Clarinet Quintets

English Clarinet Quintets


Cooke, A:

Clarinet Quintet

Frankel:

Clarinet Quintet Op. 28

Holbrooke:

Eilean Shona

Howells:

Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet and string quartet, Op. 31

Maconchy:

Clarinet Quintet


Thea King (clarinet)

Britten String Quartet

'Easily the most important clarinet disc of the year' (Clarinet & Saxophone Journal)

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