The Sonata No 1 in E major, Op 18, has much in common with the later second Piano Concerto, formally; both are in one long span but divided into three ‘moods’ which correspond to normal movements of differing characters. The unusual thing is that Howells felt the whole structure in both works to be sonata-based, with themes common to all sections so that, while there were indeed exposition, development and recapitulation, these became considerably enlarged and developed to form the whole sections of the work. It is an original concept and must have required a considerable intellectual grasp and creative imagination to sustain logical thematic development over such a span.
This analytical discussion does little to persuade the reader of the merits of the piece beyond formal curiosity. Let his mind be put at rest! He will find a work of wonderful lyricism, of emotional power and intensity and a satisfying range of moods. As Howells’s first ‘professional’ foray into the medium (there is a very early violin sonata written in 1911 for his composition portfolio for entry to the RCM) it is a remarkable addition to the repertory.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 1993