Hyperion Records

Howells, Herbert (1892-1983)  

Herbert Howells

born: 17 October 1892
died: 24 February 1983
country: United Kingdom

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In the history of twentieth-century English music, the composer Herbert Howells (1892–1983) still presents something of an enigma. The youngest of eight children of a bankrupt builder in the Forest of Dean whose musical talent, spotted and nurtured by the local landed gentry, turned out to be musical genius; the articled pupil of a provincial cathedral organist who won a scholarship to study with Parry, Stanford and Wood at the Royal College of Music, and picked up most of that institution’s glittering prizes along the way; the promising young composer of chamber music, orchestral works and songs whose fluency was admired, whose handwriting was even envied and emulated, and of whom greatness was expected. At the beginning of the 1920s it seemed as if Howells was one of the golden boys of English music, destined to rank as one of this country’s leading composers, to be mentioned alongside Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst and Delius. Yet by the end of the 1930s all this promise seemed to have fizzled out. The great works were not flowing from Howells’ pen and he was beginning to be esteemed more as a teacher than as a creative artist.

Move forward to our own day, and it is not so much the earlier instrumental and orchestral music that we associate with Howells (though many of those early works have been revived to acclaim), but the extraordinary outpouring of church music that dominated his output after the Second World War, and on which his considerable reputation largely rests. As you would expect, there is a whole complex of reasons for this. Hyper-sensitivity to criticism was certainly part of it, as was Howells’ disinclination to promote his own music. Personal tragedy also played a part—the death of his son Michael from polio in 1935 was something that he never came to terms with—and so too did a fear of financial insecurity. His father’s bankruptcy and the social exclusion that resulted, together with a life-threatening illness in 1917 that forced Howells to give up his first job as sub-organist of Salisbury Cathedral (and the salary that went with it) were among the factors that made him reluctant to relinquish the teaching appointment at the Royal College of Music that he held well into his eighties, or to decline requests to examine or adjudicate. All of this activity paid the bills, but it left him with precious little time for composition.

But creative genius cannot be totally blocked or suppressed and perhaps it is not so surprising that in the end Howells’ creativity was channelled into church music. His potential in this area had been spotted early on in his career. Eric Milner-White, Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, and one of the Church of England’s more visionary priests, heard an early performance of A Spotless Rose in the college chapel in 1920 and immediately wrote to Howells to encourage him to do more for the liturgy of the Church of England. It was Milner-White again who, twenty-five years later, sowed the seed of an idea that bore fruit in the Collegium Regale settings made specially for King’s in the 1940s.

In the meantime, Howells had rediscovered the organ loft. During the Second World War he was acting organist of St John’s College, Cambridge, deputizing for Robin Orr who was on active service with the RAF, and he entered fully into the musical life both of the chapel and of the college. Howells’ relationship with St John’s was to last to the end of his life. Here he discovered that there was a need and a desire for new music in the Anglican liturgy, music of the highest quality that only someone of his ability could write, and music that would be sought after, welcomed and performed. Thus began the body of work for which Howells is best known and which is justly celebrated. But although the last thirty years of his working life saw him compose more than twenty settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, several Te Deums, communion settings and many anthems, it is on the frequent performance of a relatively small proportion of that total output that his reputation rests. It is in fact mainly the earlier music of the 1940s and ’50s, music that includes the Collegium Regale, Gloucester and St Paul’s settings, and the Four Anthems (including ‘Like as the hart’) that people think of when they think of Howells. These are the pieces that are regularly sung in cathedrals and college chapels. Relatively little of the music written in the 1960s and ’70s has achieved a place in the regular repertoire. Much of this may well be due to the music’s difficulty and the demands it places on tight rehearsal schedules.

from notes by Paul Andrews © 2011

Albums
'Howells: Choral Music' (CDH55456)
Howells: Choral Music
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55456  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Howells: Concertos & Dances' (CDH55205)
Howells: Concertos & Dances
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55205  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'Howells: Hymnus Paradisi & An English Mass' (CDA66488)
Howells: Hymnus Paradisi & An English Mass
Buy by post £10.50 CDA66488 
'Howells: In Gloucestershire; Dyson: Three Rhapsodies' (CDA66139)
Howells: In Gloucestershire; Dyson: Three Rhapsodies
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66139  Archive Service  
'Howells: Lambert's Clavichord & Howells' Clavichord' (CDH55152)
Howells: Lambert's Clavichord & Howells' Clavichord
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55152  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Howells: Music for violin and piano' (CDH55139)
Howells: Music for violin and piano
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55139  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Howells: Psalm-Preludes & Rhapsodies' (CDA66394)
Howells: Psalm-Preludes & Rhapsodies
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'Howells: Requiem & other choral works' (CDA67914)
Howells: Requiem & other choral works
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'Howells: Requiem; Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor' (CDH55220)
Howells: Requiem; Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55220  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Howells: St Paul's Service & other works' (CDA66260)
Howells: St Paul's Service & other works
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66260  Archive Service  
'Howells: The Winchester Service & other late works' (CDA67853)
Howells: The Winchester Service & other late works
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67853 
'Music for Remembrance' (CDA68020)
Music for Remembrance
CDA68020  To be issued soon October 2014 Release  
'A Christmas Present from Polyphony' (NOEL2)
A Christmas Present from Polyphony
Buy by post £4.50 NOEL2  Super-budget price sampler — Last few CD copies remaining  
'Adeste fideles' (CDA66668)
Adeste fideles
Buy by post £5.25 CDA66668  Please, someone, buy me …  
'Bach Arrangements' (CDA67309)
Bach Arrangements
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67309 
'Bach: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 9 – A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen' (CDA67767)
Bach: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 9 – A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67767 
'Christmas at St John's Cambridge' (CDA67576)
Christmas at St John's Cambridge
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'Clarinet Quintets' (CDH55105)
Clarinet Quintets
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55105  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Dyson: Three Rhapsodies; Howells: In Gloucestershire' (CDA66139)
Dyson: Three Rhapsodies; Howells: In Gloucestershire
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66139  Archive Service  
'English Choral and Organ Music' (CDH55009)
English Choral and Organ Music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55009  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'English Music for Clarinet' (CDD22027)
English Music for Clarinet
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22027  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
'English Orchestral Songs' (CDA67065)
English Orchestral Songs
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'Epiphany at St Paul's' (CDH55443)
Epiphany at St Paul's
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55443  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Music for oboe' (CDH55008)
Music for oboe
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55008  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'My spirit hath rejoiced' (CDH55402)
My spirit hath rejoiced
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55402  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'O magnum misterium' (CDA66925)
O magnum misterium
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'On this Island' (CDA67227)
On this Island
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'Organ Dreams, Vol. 2' (CDA67146)
Organ Dreams, Vol. 2
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67146 
'Organ Dreams, Vol. 3' (CDA67317)
Organ Dreams, Vol. 3
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'Psalms from St Paul's, Vol. 3 30-40' (CDP11003)
Psalms from St Paul's, Vol. 3 30-40
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDP11003  Archive Service; also available on CDS44101/12  
'Rejoice, the Lord is king!' (CDA68013)
Rejoice, the Lord is king!
Buy by post £10.50 CDA68013  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Songs to Shakespeare' (CDA66480)
Songs to Shakespeare
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66480  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'The English Anthem, Vol. 4' (CDA66678)
The English Anthem, Vol. 4
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66678  Archive Service  
'The English Anthem, Vol. 7' (CDA67087)
The English Anthem, Vol. 7
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67087 
'The English Hymn, Vol. 1 – Christ Triumphant' (CDP12101)
The English Hymn, Vol. 1 – Christ Triumphant
Buy by post £8.50 CDP12101 
'The Feast of Michaelmas at Westminster Abbey' (CDA67643)
The Feast of Michaelmas at Westminster Abbey
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67643 
'The Music of St Paul's Cathedral' (SPCC2000)
The Music of St Paul's Cathedral
Buy by post £4.50 SPCC2000  Super-budget price sampler  
'The Psalms of David' (CDS44101/12)
The Psalms of David
Buy by post £40.00 CDS44101/12  12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Trinity Sunday at Westminster Abbey' (CDA67557)
Trinity Sunday at Westminster Abbey
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67557 
'Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor; Howells: Requiem' (CDH55220)
Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor; Howells: Requiem
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55220  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Bax: Choral Music' (A66092)
Bax: Choral Music
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) A66092  Archive Service (LP transfer)   This album is not available for download
'English Cathedral Music of the 20th Century' (A66018)
English Cathedral Music of the 20th Century
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) A66018  Archive Service (LP transfer)   This album is not available for download
'Hyperion monthly sampler – February 2014' (HYP201402)
Hyperion monthly sampler – February 2014
HYP201402  Download-only monthly sampler   No longer available
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
A Flourish for a Bidding (Howells)
A Hymn for St Cecilia (Howells)
A Sequence for St Michael (Howells)
A Spotless Rose  No 2 of Three Carol-Anthems (Howells)
All my hope on God is founded  First line to Michael (Howells/Rutter)
All my hope on God is founded  First line to Michael (Howells)
An English Mass (Howells)
Antiphon (Howells)
Behold, O God our defender (Howells)
Benedictus  Canticle 2 of St George's Windsor Service (Howells)
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord  First line to Benedictus, Movement 5 of An English Mass (Howells)
By a bierside (Gurney/Howells)
Chosen Tune  No 3 of Three Pieces, Op 28 (Howells)
Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service' (Howells)
Come, my soul (Howells)
Concerto for string orchestra (Howells)
Coventry Antiphon (Howells)
Cradle song, Op 9 No 1 (Howells)
Exultate Deo (Howells)
Four Anthems (Howells)
Four Anthems to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Howells)
Fret not thyself because of the ungodly  First line to Psalm 37 'Noli aemulari' (Howells)
Glory be to God on high  First line to Gloria, Movement 7 of An English Mass (Howells)
Gloucester Service (Howells)
Here is the little door  No 1 of Three Carol-Anthems (Howells)
Holy is the true light  Movement 6 of Hymnus Paradisi (Howells)
Holy Spirit, ever dwelling  First line to Salisbury (Howells)
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts  First line to Sanctus, Movement 4 of An English Mass (Howells)
Howells' Clavichord (Howells)
Hymnus Paradisi (Howells)
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty  First line to Credo, Movement 2 of An English Mass (Howells)
I heard a voice from heaven  Movement 6 of Requiem (Howells)
I heard a voice from heaven  Movement 5 of Hymnus Paradisi (Howells)
I love all beauteous things (Howells)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills  First line to Psalm 121, Movement 4 of Requiem (Howells)
I'm homesick for my hills again  First line to In Flanders (Gurney/Howells)
In Flanders (Gurney/Howells)
Inheritance (Howells)
Jubilate  Morning Canticle 2 of Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service' (Howells)
Jubilate Deo 'St Peter ad Vincula' (Howells)
King David (Howells)
Lambert's Clavichord, Op 41 (Howells)
Let all the world in every corner sing  First line to Antiphon (Howells)
Lift up your hearts  First line to Sursum corda, Movement 3 of An English Mass (Howells)
Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks  No 4 of Four Anthems (Howells)
Luchinushka  No 4 of Three Pieces, Op 28 (Howells)
Magnificat  Canticle 1 of The Winchester Service (Howells)
Magnificat  Canticle 1 of New College Service (Howells)
Magnificat  Evening Canticle 1 of Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service' (Howells)
Magnificat  Canticle 1 of St Paul's Service (Howells)
Magnificat  Canticle 1 of Gloucester Service (Howells)
Master Tallis's Testament  No 3 of Six Pieces for organ (Howells)
Michael (Howells)
Michael (Howells/Rutter)
Michael, Archangel, of the King of Kings  First line to A Sequence for St Michael (Howells)
My house shall be called an house of prayer for all people  First line to Coventry Antiphon (Howells)
New College Service (Howells)
Nunc dimittis  Canticle 2 of The Winchester Service (Howells)
Nunc dimittis  Canticle 2 of New College Service (Howells)
Nunc dimittis  Evening Canticle 2 of Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service' (Howells)
Nunc dimittis  Canticle 2 of St Paul's Service (Howells)
Nunc dimittis  Canticle 2 of Gloucester Service (Howells)
O lamb of God  First line to Agnus Dei, Movement 6 of An English Mass (Howells)
O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde gross, BWV622 (Bach/Howells)
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem  No 1 of Four Anthems (Howells)
O saviour of the world  First line to Salvator mundi, Movement 1 of Requiem (Howells)
Pastorale  No 2 of Three Pieces, Op 28 (Howells)
Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor (Howells)
Psalm 121  Movement 4 of Requiem (Howells)
Psalm 23  Movement 2 of Requiem (Howells)
Psalm 37 'Noli aemulari' (Howells)
Psalm-Preludes Set 1, Op 32 (Howells)
Psalm-Preludes Set 2 (Howells)
Requiem (Howells)
Requiem aeternam  Movement 2 of Hymnus Paradisi (Howells)
Requiem aeternam II  Movement 5 of Requiem (Howells)
Rhapsodic Quintet, Op 31 (Howells)
Rhapsody No 4 (Howells)
Salisbury (Howells)
Salvator mundi  Movement 1 of Requiem (Howells)
Salve regina  No 4 of Four Anthems to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Howells)
Sanctus – I will lift up mine eyes  Movement 4 of Hymnus Paradisi (Howells)
Siciliano for a High Ceremony (Howells)
Sing for the morning's joy, Cecilia, sing  First line to A Hymn for St Cecilia (Howells)
Sing lullaby  No 3 of Three Carol-Anthems (Howells)
Sing we merrily unto God our strength  First line to Exultate Deo (Howells)
Six Pieces for organ (Howells)
Sonata for clarinet and piano (Howells)
Sonata for oboe and piano (Howells)
Sonata No 1 in E major, Op 18 (Howells)
Sonata No 2 in E flat major, Op 26 (Howells)
Sonata No 3 in E minor, Op 38 (Howells)
St George's Windsor Service (Howells)
St Paul's Service (Howells)
String Quartet No 3 'In Gloucestershire' (Howells)
Take him, earth, for cherishing (Howells)
Te Deum  Canticle 1 of St George's Windsor Service (Howells)
Te Deum  Morning Canticle 1 of Collegium Regale 'King's College Cambridge Service' (Howells)
Te Deum 'St Mary Redcliffe' (Howells)
The fear of the Lord (Howells)
The Lord is my shepherd  First line to Psalm 23, Movement 2 of Requiem (Howells)
The Lord is my shepherd  Movement 3 of Hymnus Paradisi (Howells)
The Scribe (Howells)
The summer is coming (Howells)
The Winchester Service (Howells)
Thee will I love (Howells)
This is a sacred city, built of marvellous earth  First line to By a bierside (Gurney/Howells)
Three Carol-Anthems (Howells)
Three Dances for violin and orchestra, Op 7 (Howells)
Three Pieces, Op 28 (Howells)
Three Rhapsodies, Op 17 (Howells)
Under the greenwood tree (Howells)
Westminster Service (Howells)
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