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Hyperion Records

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A Lake Landscape at Sunset by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
Christie's, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55456
Recording details: June 2004
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: June 2005
Total duration: 10 minutes 59 seconds

'The phrasing of Malcolm Archer's Wells Cathedral Choir is unobtrusively intelligent, Howells' long, powerfully expanding crescendos emerging as naturally evolving arcs in the ongoing argument. Tonal blend is excellent, and there is no superficial straining for effect whatsoever. This is genuinely devotional singing, technique placed at the disposal of the music's spiritual message. Rupert Gough's organ accompaniments are exemplary' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Rupert Gough's accompaniments are tastefully executed and help make this portrait of the range and diversity of a side to Howells all too often taken for granted a highly worthwhile release' (International Record Review)

'The sound is focused and radiant, the ensemble immaculate, and Rupert Gough provides charismatic organ accompaniment' (The Scotsman)

A Sequence for St Michael
First line:
Michael, Archangel, of the King of Kings
composer
1961; for the 450th anniversary of the foundation of St John's College, Cambridge
author of text
translator of text
from Medieval Latin Lyrics, London, Constable, 1929

Other recordings available for download
Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor), Robert Quinney (organ)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
There is one inescapable element in Howells’s creative make-up which, however many times it is related, cannot be overlooked, and that is the loss of his son Michael at the age of nine in 1935. A Sequence for St Michael begins with two agonized cries of ‘Michael’. Many have been drawn to paint the Archangel Michael in music and on canvas, but for Howells, aided and abetted by the miraculous quality of Helen Waddell’s trans­lation of the medieval Latin of Alcuin, this was simply an opportunity for externalizing a feeling which in 1961 was still as raw as it had been when Michael had died twenty-six years earlier.

The Sequence is a big piece effectively in three sections, the central one being a sensuous tenor solo which mirrors the ‘censer of gold’ in its sinuous musical line which seems to waft like the incense which rises from it. The heart of the poem is the image to which Howells will have felt instinctively drawn: ‘Then was there a great silence in heaven, And a thousand thousand saying ‘Glory to the Lord King’’. It is the feeling of vastness, space, silence and mystery conjured up by that image which never fails to impress. Howells’s musical response is to begin the words of those ‘thousand thousand’ like a quiet rumour, beginning very low with the basses and tenors in counterpoint and placing the sopranos high above like hovering angels. This is arch-Impressionism of a high order.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005


Other albums featuring this work
'The Feast of Michaelmas at Westminster Abbey' (CDA67643)
The Feast of Michaelmas at Westminster Abbey

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