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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67643
Recording details: February 2007
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2007
Total duration: 10 minutes 23 seconds

'The disc is a splendid and colourful addition to the Abbey Choir's recordings of special services. They themselves are in fine form, sovereign (as befits the status of their church) in musical confidence, as well placed as the bright-toned voices of the boys who rise with an aplomb many opera house choruses might envy to the high Cs of the Langlais Mass, and show their mastery in still more wonderful ways by finding the notes scattered with hide-and-seek devilry in Tippet's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. And in that connection the soloist Nicholas Trapp deserves particular mention. Their style, under James O'Donnell's sure direction, is forthright and spirited, well attuned to the Jacobean mysticism of Dering's Factus est silentium as to Howell's ecstatic Sequence for St Michael … Kenneth Leighton's Responses are subtly varied and inventive' (Gramophone)

'The choir, atmospherically recorded in the Abbey itself, sings this demanding repertoire with its customary zeal and a well-blended sound, and the performances are directed with the panache and style one has come to expect from James O'Donnell. Robert Quinney's contribution as organist culminates in a Laus Deo from Jonathan Harvey aptly described by O'Donnell in his booklet note as 'the opulent psychedelia of [Messiaen's] Turangalîla compressed into four minutes'' (The Daily Telegraph)

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
Wells Cathedral Choir, Malcolm Archer (conductor), Rupert Gough (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
'Howells: Choral Music' (CDH55456)
Howells: Choral Music
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55456  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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