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Howells: Requiem & other works
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
BBC Music Magazine
Choral & Song Choice - June 2012
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Howells - St John’s Magnificat
This recording heralds the beginning of an exclusive recording contract between Chandos and the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge. All performances will be conducted by Andrew Nethsingha, the Choir’s Director of Music since 2007.
The disc of choral music by Herbert Howells includes two settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis: one setting was written for St John’s, where Howells was Acting Organist during World War II; the other for Gloucester Cathedral in the composer’s native county. It also features two premiere recordings, A Grace for 10 Downing Street and Psalm 142.
Andrew Nethsingha said, “We are delighted to be embarking on a partnership with such an excellent label as Chandos. With them, we will release a wide variety of repertoire. We have chosen to start with a disc of Howells’ music – Herbert Howells was closely associated with St John’s College for several decades. Two major works written for the St John’s Choir, including “Sequence for St Michael” will feature on the CD. The recording of “By the waters of Babylon”, a deeply moving psalm setting for baritone, violin, cello and organ will be another highlight of the disc.”
This is St John’s College Choir’s first long-term contract with Chandos. However, it has already made a number of recordings for the label, including Mozart’s Requiem and works by Charpentier and Poulenc (conducted by George Guest) and music by Tallis and Gibbons (conducted by Christopher Robinson).
“If you are at all interested in Howells's church music this disc is an obligatory purchase...Here the emotion of the music feelingly and unapologetically wells upward to the surface, making raw and immediate the spiritual impetus of Howells's writing.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2010 *****
“the new, clear tone [of the boys at St John's College, Cambridge] under its present director, Andrew Nethsingha, certainly has an impressive vibrancy and conviction. Not since David Willcocks's memorable recording of Howells's church music...have I heard such precise intonation” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
(also available to download from $10.50)
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Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis Vol. 1
Mark Lee (organ)
Gloucester Cathedral Choir, John Sanders
Usually despatched in 8 - 10 working days.
Howells from Hereford
This year’s Three Choirs’ Festival (8-15 August 2009) is based in the radiant acoustic of Hereford Cathedral, where this collection of works by Herbert Howells is recorded.
Presents the three sets of evening canticles written for the cathedrals of the Three Choirs Festival, (Gloucester, Hereford & Worcester) together with the complete canticles written for King’s College, Cambridge (‘Collegium Regale’).
Includes the set of Four Anthems featuring his most popular choral work ‘Like as the hart’.
“Particularly admirable throughout is the finely shaded, sympathetic interchange between choir and organ. …the choir does credit to its director, Geraint Bowen, singing with keen attentiveness and consistently pleasing tone.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009
“The choir are a little pallid to begin with but soon liven up and seem to be become more fully engaged...these are good, confident and atmospheric performances of some truly wonderful choral works, and the disc merits commendation.” MusicWeb International, December 2012
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Howells: Evening Canticles
Andrew Timms (organ)
The Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, Sarah MacDonald
Recorded March 2000 at the Church of our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.