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Cat. No. CHAN 241-20 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 241-20 - Howells: Orchestral Works 2-CD set
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Available From: 07 February 2005
Why a composer as brilliant and individual as Herbert Howells should have won himself almost no reputation in his lifetime as a composer for orchestra must surely be the outcome of his own ambivalence towards the glorious music he wrote for it. That ambivalence would have been underlined by various twists of fate, principally from the tragic death of his son Michael from polio at the age of ten. Yet Howells left well over a dozen highly characteristic orchestral works, including two piano concertos, as well as a number of extended choral works with orchestra. It is amazing to realise that although he wrote several hundred works altogether, the earlier orchestral music could only be unlocked from the page after the composer himself had passed on.

Howells was born of a long-established local family at Lydney in Gloucestershire, on the western bank of the Severn, well on the way to Tintern and the Welsh border. Not far to the north lay Gloucester with its cathedral where, at the age of sixteen, he became an articled pupil of Sir Herbert Brewer, cathedral organist and composer. The profound musical influences on Howells, apart from the Cathedral tradition, were Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and it was perhaps the first performance of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on A Theme by Thomas Tallis, which Howells attended at the 1910 Three Choirs Festival, that left the most abiding impact on him. He was another west-country composer (along with Parry, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Ivor Gurney and Julius Harrison) who responded to the power of landscape and to place and evoked the country of the River Severn in several works.
Reviews

"...Helped y rich atmospheric sound, Richard Hickox draws performance that are both brilliant and warmly persuasive from the LSO, with Moray Welsh a movingly expressive soloist in the concertante works. A most attractive bargain reissue, joing together two equally desirable discs."
The Penguin Guide – 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

This fascinating collection is completed by a superb rendition by Lydia Mordkovitch of the Three Dances, Op. 7, and a rapt Yvonne Kenny in the song-cycle ‘In Green Ways. Beautifully rich Chandos sound as always.
Gramophone

Richard Hickox and the LSO are ardent and communicative advocates of all this fine music. A highly recommendable disc, very well recorded indeed.
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs

…one can only marvel that so accomplished and imaginative a writer for the orchestra should have let any of [these works] be buried' Helped by rich, atmospheric sound, Richard Hickox draws performances both brilliant and warmly persuasive from the LSO.
Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’

You think Herbert Howells, you think Hymnus Paradisi. And then you wonder why a composer working on that kind of scale with that kind of reach, brilliance, vision, made almost no impression in the sphere of purely orchestral music. And then you listen to these relatively early scores and wonder turns to disbelief. Here is something more than just another West Country composer singing the landscape.
The Independent

I must say that this set is a wonderful addition to my British music collection – primarily new works that are very worthwhile. The playing and recording are first rate, and the notes are helpful.
American Record Guide

 

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