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Cat. No. CHAN 9874 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9874 - Howells: Piano Concertos
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Available From: 23 November 2000
Herbert Howells, a raw country boy with his untamed Gloucestershire accent, full of doubts, nerves and insecurities, with no money in his pocket faced with the style and swagger of London, was armed with nothing but a fragile belief in his abilities. He quickly became one of the prized students of the Royal College of Music and the First Piano Concerto was his first major orchestral work. It was written for his pianist-friend and fellow student Arthur Benjamin and the 1914 premiere was conducted by his tutor, Stanford. One of the most arresting facets of the work is its assimilation of influences and the extraordinary fluency and confidence of the writing, not least in the colour and brilliance of his orchestration. The solo piano part is extremely demanding.

The Second Piano Concerto was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society and first performed in 1925. Howells’s reputation was established by this time and the new work was widely anticipated. It was poorly received, not helped by a lacklustre performance, and Howells withdrew it from publication straight away. He described the work as having ‘deliberate tunes all the way’, being ‘jolly in feeling, and attempting to get to the point as quickly as maybe’. The modernity of the music must not be underestimated. It is a huge advance, stylistically, on the earlier concerto and is a remarkable tour de force quite unlike any other work of the period.

Penguinski was written for a visit made by the Prince of Wales to the Royal College of Music in 1933. It takes an affectionately sideways glance at Stravinsky’s Petrushka and is full of all those orchestral mannerisms (including an important piano part) which, together with a healthy sense of humour, make what must been a tiny ballet of great amusement and delight.
Reviews

‘This disc is one of Howard Shelley’s finest… the recorded sound is excellent.’
Classic CD on CHAN 9558 (Hummel)

‘These are absolutely superb performances and make it evident that the performers have much empathy and enthusiasm for this neglected but captivating music. The recorded sound is as laudable as the performances.’
American Record Guide

‘The BBC Symphony Orchestra responds magnificently to the best hands for such a task, those of Richard Hickox…The Chandos recording engineers deserve particular praise… an unimprovable result… But the day belongs utterly to Howard Shelley… This demands to be heard. Buy!’
International Piano Quarterly

‘Howard Shelley, a still widely underrated and sensitive virtuoso, responds brilliantly to the challenge, and the BBCSO play well for him under Richard Hickox’.
BBC Music Magazine

‘An excellent disc’
Noteworthy Australia

‘Long-buried, Herbert Howells’s First Piano Concerto, with its final pages now restored by John Rutter, is a revelation… Howard Shelley as soloist and Richard Hickox as conductor hold the structure superbly together’.

‘You want a single-word summation of this disc? Thrilling… I don’t apologise for my raucous enthusiasm: this one is a must-buy’.
Fanfare

Richard Hickox brings passionate commitment to his performance and shapes Howells;s long. Long lines lovingly.’
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 9744 (Howells)

‘Howard Shelley is an ideal advocate of this music, keeping the textures lucid, honing the be canto melodies elegantly and tossing off the virtuoso pyrotechnics with verve and finesse.’
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 9807 (Hummel)

‘…Howard Shelley as soloists is clearly passionate and committed, and Richard Hickox obtains playing from the BBC Symphony Orchestra that sounds wholly secure… A great start to 2001 for lovers of British music…
International Record Review

 

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